Cobra Kai: Season 4 (5/5)
To be frank, this is more of a 4.5/5, but screw it, I'm ranking up. So yes, this is probably the best season I've seen so far (for the record, the ranking is 4>3>1>2) - it's absolutely astounding how each season has been "pretty damn good" at worst, excellent at best, and how consistent the whole series has been. Season 4 certainly isn't perfect, but overall, it's great.
I'm not going to do a standard review (not that I always do that anyway), but I'm just going to post a collection of thoughts. So on that note:
-Kenny really strikes me as a wasted character, and at best (or worst?), a character who mainly exists to further other characters. On his own, the journey of "bullied kid joins Cobra Kai and becomes a bully himself" is a journey that's already been done in this series, so I'm not sure why he's here...unless I factor in other developments. Robby takes Kenny under his wing, but Kenny turns out as a thug, so sucks for Robby I guess. And it gives Antonio something to do, but again, these are developments for other characters, not so much Kenny himself.
-Speaking of Antonio, it's kind of weird, if refreshing, to have him have a more major role in the series, and I think it's done well, especially when Daniel finally loses his shit with him.
-Terry Silver...okay, quick divergence, I saw some of Karate Kid III way back in the day, but barely remember any of it, so while I'm aware of Silver by reputation, I can't comment on him too much as a character up until now. Watching him in this season by itself however, I think Silver's a fascinating character.
On one hand, Silver's clearly not a good person, but maybe this is just me, but I think the series kind of leaves it up in the air as to where the rot is triggered, so to speak. Because early on, he wants nothing to do with Kreese, but Kreese's visit triggers PTSD, so he ends up joining Cobra Kai. Throughout the entire season, Silver's portrayed as being the more amicable, generous, even caring sensei of Cobra Kai, yet clearly there's a darker, even sadistic side to him, such as when he beats up Johnny, Stringray, and frames Kreese for the latter. The question is, and I'd be curious what other people think, did Silver plan to usurp Cobra Kai from the ouset, or did he just get tired of Kreese pulling rank? Because the latter is actually my take. My reading is that Silver, at least initially, was genuinely remorseful for what he did in the third film, and did, at least initially, come back to help Kreese out and recover some of his old mojo, but as the season goes on, his worst instincts come to the surface, and considering how Kreese treats him some of the time, his resentment isn't really without a basis.
Or, alternatively, Silver is meant to be taken as being a pure sociopath and nothing more, but hey, character layers make for delicious cake.
-Speaking of Kreese, again what's interesting is that Kreese seems to go in the opposite direction - mellowing out, becoming less aggressive, he even seems to be genuinely sorry towards Johnny for the events of the first movie, and their falling out in this series. Unlike Silver, I'm not entirely sure what drives this shift, but if I had to guess, it's down to two things:
a) Since Cobra Kai, Eagle Fang, and Miyagi-Do have a "no fighting before the tournament" thing going on, Kreese can't let loose the dogs of war, and by containing his students, has to contain himself.
b) Kreese sees how Silver attacks Johnny, and has a "oh shit" moment.
Kreese isn't as complex as Silver, but it's still solid character development.
-So, Season 4 did what Season 2 and 3 never could, and made me actually sympathetic towards Tori, and make her kind of, sort of, possibly, likable. Well done, season 4. Well done. Also Sam's becoming a bit of a bully herself.
-Johnny's attempted recruiting of female students...yeah, I was outright laughing in this section. Especially when he has to "speak woke" to recruit Piper. Well done, Johnny, I feel ya.
-I really like Devon as a character, even if she doesn't get enough screentime...sort of. I say "sort of," because on the question of not getting enough screentime, you could apply that criticism to any number of the teen characters within the dojos - I can throw out the names "Chris" or "Kenny" for instance, and I'd be surprised if no-one had to look up who they were. Still, Devon makes an impression and I wish we got more of her. That said, why does she join Eagle Fang when a much better stocked Cobra Kai dojo exists? I mean, Piper ends up joining Cobra Kai even after agreeing to join Eagle Fang, and given that Cobra Kai gets to train in an actual dojo (among other things), it's not hard to see why. I guess part of the reason why I'd like to have seen more of Devon is that she'd slot in with a 'female trinity' among Sam and Tory, plus she reminds me of Artemis from Stargirl (make of that what you will), but meh.
-Come to the two-part finale, and I honestly think we've got the best fights in the series. Which would be reason to celebrate by itself, but there's also the solid character development with it, such as Danny and Johnny maybe finally reconciling, and seeing the worth in each other's styles, and how you can visually see the changes when Sam alternates between Miyagi Do and Eagle Fang. Her fight with Tory is excellent, but I'll also give special mention to Eli vs. Robby, which, on a purely visual level, might be the best fight in the entire series. I kid you not, when Eli flips back up, I literally exclaimed "holy shit," and whispered as such when I rewatched the fight on YouTube. Heck, they even do a song sequence with the minor fights via montage, and it's still awesome.
So, yeah. Absolutely awesome season - probably the best one in the series so far. If I had to rank them, it would go 4>3>1>2, but at worst, all these seasons are still good. It's nothing short of incredible that the IP was able to be revived the way it was, but that the quality is as consistent as well.