First of all, I binge-watched this series in 2 days. It's that good. Whether you were a fan of the original 1984 movie, or you were a Gen X kid who wants to wallow in some good old nostalgia, this is the series for you. It also helps that it's funny, at times heart-warming, and incredibly well-written. The great writing alone should keep any youngsters who weren't even born when the original movie came out interested. So, that said, this post is a combo Cobra Kai review, and book recommendations list. 'Cause that's just how I roll. You're welcome. Here it goes:
Plot Overview & My Review
l start with a little plot overview of the show for anyone who hasn't seen the trailer. Cobra Kai is set decades after Daniel won the All Valley Karate tournament, beating Johnny Lawrence, the reigning champion. Johnny had been a horrible bully, and now, some 36 years later, we see that Johnny never really emotionally got past that defeat. But in meeting young karate student Miguel, Johnny finds his purpose and soon restarts the Cobra Kai dojo--to the great dismay of Daniel, who is now a successful car dealership owner.
There's a lot to love here. This show takes someone who was a one-dimensional villain in the original movie, and makes me genuinely care about him and understand why he was the way he was. Just as every hero has an origin story, so does every villain--and I love that Cobra Kai not only gave us Johnny's villain origin story, but gave him a chance to completely redeem himself.
And in this show, the lines between hero and villain are blurry as hell. There's times when Johnny's in the wrong. But there are just as many times when Daniel is a flat-out jackass who seems totally comfortable in his wrongness. Same goes for Johnny's students, and Daniel's students. I think the writers are telling us that there really aren't any heroes and villains--we're all just human, and "good" and "bad" are sometimes just a matter of your point of view. That's a message that I'd like to see A LOT more television writers embrace, frankly.
This show is funny as hell, too. Johnny is so behind the times when it comes to technology that when he had one of his students film a commercial for him, then told her to "send it to the internet" and "add one of those hash browns" to it, I laughed until I about hurt myself. Same goes for the scene where they cut from Daniel teaching his student the famous wax-on-wax-off routine and it's importance, to Johnny kicked back, reading the paper while Miguel cleans the dojo. Miguel asks, "Is there any specific way you want these cleaned?" Johnny answers with a completely disinterested, "Nah, I don't give a shit." There's a lot more comedy in the show, but it's little moments like these where the actors (and writers) really shine, in my opinion.
If I was going to be critical, I'd say that the acting isn't always stellar, especially among the kids. Miguel pretty much carries the lot of them, as far as I'm concerned. But they're all so fresh-faced and likeable that the lack of thespian skill didn't really bug me too much. And let's face it...Ralph Macchio wasn't exactly the greatest actor of his generation, either. (Sorry, Ralph). So, if you're an acting snob, you might be bothered by certain elements of this show. But if that's the case, you can see yourself out and the rest of us won't miss you, frankly. We'll be too busy enjoying the call-backs to the original movie, moments of hilarity, and the yummy goodness that is the redemption of one Johnny Lawrence.
Long-story-short: This show is an A+++++ watch for me. Two enthusiastic thumbs up.
(Off topic: Don't stare too long directly at the actor who plays Johnny's old instructor, Krese. It'll give you nightmares. That dude's the poster child for what hard living can do to a body. Yikes.)
Now...what to read
There are a few key tropes that come up in this show that I think 98% of romance readers can relate to and enjoy the crap out of. Here's what I recommend:
The redeemed villain, or anti-hero
Let's face it. Johnny was a complete d-bag in the original movie. But in Cobra Kai, we get to know him a little better, and somewhere in the middle of season 1, he really does start his hero journey. So, with that in mind, here are 5 of my all-time favorite redeemed villain/anti-hero stories that I think my fellow Johnny Lawrence fans will ADORE:
Stories about men who aren't in their 20's? Yes please!! Here a few of my faves:
I know, I know. Karate isn't about fighting, per se. It's about self-defense. But...the fights are kinda cool, too, though. So...here's some great romances about fighters:
For anyone who watched the show and cares, I'm 100% Team Miguel. But, I really only have one recommendation for coming-of-age, first love stories like Miguel and Sam's story. Trust me. This one's all you'll need...