Season 2 spoilers follow. Just throwing out some thoughts.
“I wasn’t taught the difference between mercy and honor, and I paid the price.” — Johnny Lawrence
“Second chances” is another overarching theme of the second season of Cobra Kai. That’s obvious. What’s subtle is the question of whether people deserve a second chance. John Kreese does not. He is a sociopath, redemption is irrelevant.
The two cartoon villains are Tory and Kreese. A word on each. Tory is a product of neurotic-male fascination with butt-kicking babes. For everyone else, such unrealistic female characters break the suspension of disbelief. Kreese: he is the articulation of their fears when they see us starting to turn to nationalism.
In earlier comments, CMC writes:
LaRusso’s looking across the Pacific, to another civilization for answers. Recall that the original was from the mid 80’s. The east was recognized as rising, as a worthy ancient culture whose defeat may have just been an aberration. For instance, Japan’s cars had been a cheap joke in the 60’s, then just cheap in the 70’s, then no joke in the 80’s. He ain’t some home schooled neo-Medici condottiere wrestling with Christian concepts like honor and meekness, he’s in another world.
Similarly, Johnny’s not looking to King Arthur’s court or Beowulf or the Illiad, he’s looking to a snake, he’s crawling along as low as he can go —or as basic as you want to go if we’re being generous.
I liked Season 2 through I think the 8th episode, when Johnny and Daniel shook hands after that accidental double-date. That was the time to start tying up the loose ends for the series. Leave the Ali loose end open though, as there wouldn’t be enough episodes in the season to work her in without rushing that. But if a third season is needed to introduce Ali, then we’re now milking the Johnny/Daniel dynamic, turning it into one arbitrary mishap or misunderstanding after another. In short, I wanted the series elegantly wrapped up in S2.
Johnny Lawrence carries the series. He is us. Ralph Macchio and the writers did a good job making Daniel a stronger and more sympathetic character in S2. The way his devotion to karate was jeopardizing his auto business was very well done. He doesn’t have Johnny’s pathos, righteousness, heroic honesty. But he does have a look in his eyes that reveals that he really wants to do the right thing.
Minor stuff I disliked, very much: the lesbian kiss at that party. Gratuitous (((filth))).
And I very much liked the single-episode subplot in which Johnny and his high school friends get together, even if under grim circumstances. Funny, isn’t it, how flashbacks of the guys riding their motorbikes are now conveyed as joyful moments of youth, while in 1984 Karate Kid they were meant to be menacing scenes.
There is something to be said about the meta phenomenon of Cobra Kai. The show is about White GenX men, now approaching or just past 50. What do they, the showbiz producers, want from us? America is on the verge of racial/demographic collapse. The all-around hate in the air is dialed up to the max. And here we have an ’80s vibe Valley in Cobra Kai.
Another theme… predestination? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Eli was right to do something about his awful nerdhood. But then he turned into a monster… almost literally, in that horror-movie lab scene when he was stalking Dimitri.
And Robbie. He had the full benefit of Miyago-do training. He wanted to be good. He was strong and had integrity. But then that dishonorable kick that might have paralyzed Miguel, who paid a price for showing mercy. The author can do whatever he wants. It’s his fictional world. The show’s writers wanted that implausible melee in episode 10, that had upset the series’ narrative arc.