Cobra Kai Season 5 Review: A Tale of Two Halves

After less than a year away, Cobra Kai is making its return to Netflix for Season 5, and the Karate Kid sequel series continues to be as melodramatic and action-packed as ever before. Cobra Kai's latest installment delivers a lot of what fans have come to love over the first four seasons, though there are quite a few times when the series tries too hard to be what it thinks viewers want and overshoots what it's aiming for. More than in seasons past, Cobra Kai struggles to find its footing in Season 5 and the result is a mixed bag. Fortunately, the issues seem to get ironed out as the season progresses, and the final few episodes more than make up for what was lacking early on.

Season 5 follows the aftermath of the All-Valley tournament that saw Terry Silver's Cobra Kai emerge victorious, closing the doors on both Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang. Silver is now expanding throughout the entire Valley, opening Cobra Kai dojos left and right, all while Kreese sits in prison for a crime he didn't commit. As Terry expands, Daniel, Johnny, and Chozen believe they need to stop him, and things get out of hand rather quickly.

The first half of the season is spent almost entirely focused on the tensions between Terry and Daniel, which come off as frustrating and sometimes even nonsensical. There are two grown men setting fires to businesses, contracting karate muscle, and trying to end marriages over seemingly nothing at all. The only thing these men ever say is, "Terry Silver has to be stopped," but they don't bother to explain what exactly they're trying to stop him from, other than growing his business. 

The melodrama of previous seasons worked because it was always about the kids at the end of the day. Johnny and Daniel had their issues to work out, but they were always building towards some kind of karate showdown or competition. Without that, it just feels like a few grown men stuck in their childish ways, and it gets old very quickly. Courtney Henggeler's Amanda LaRusso is the saving grace of those early episodes, often being a mouthpiece for common sense, as well as the entire audience, telling Daniel just how ridiculous the entire situation is.

The first four episodes of Season 5 are a rough watch, but it's as if a switch flips in the fifth episode, and the entire series course-corrects itself almost instantly. There are conversations about why Terry's actions affect the teenagers in the Valley, and we see those issues play out in real time. As the storylines of the adults and teens come together, and shift their focus back to karate, everything falls into place. 

Once the ball gets rolling, there's so much to love about Cobra Kai Season 5. Thomas Ian Griffith is as excellent as ever in his portrayal of Terry Silver, looming over the action with a menacing presence. As usual, Mary Mouser and Peyton List steal the show when they're on screen, and Dallas Dupree Young continues to craft one of the show's most compelling characters with his portrayal of Kenny Payne. Kenny's "bully who is definitely a good kid underneath it all" arc is every bit as enjoyable as Tory or Hawk's. 

Cobra Kai works best when all of its most important pieces are involved in the same story, sharing the screen and playing off one another. That's what we get in the final five episodes of Season 5, giving fans everything they love about the series, it just takes a while to get there. Like all of Mr. Miyagi's greatest lessons, patience is of the utmost importance. 

Rating: 3 out of 5

Cobra Kai Season 5 debuts on Netflix on September 9th.