The main conflict again involves Cobra Kai, the karate dojo now headed by not only John Kreese (Martin Kove) but also his old friend Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), both ardent practitioners of the “No Mercy”- code.
Their involvement has also forced Daniel and former foe Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) to try to put their differences aside, but the couple’s personalities and styles don’t match easily, and they barely operate from a place of mutual trust.
The series also neatly avoids the dumb teenage syndrome, introducing new characters and unexpected wrinkles involving the existing ones, based on the theory, much like Johnny’s arc, that being a villain doesn’t automatically mean you have to stay one forever.
As usual, tensions built towards the inevitable karate tournament in the valley, but the real power lies in reaching it, with Zabka delivering many laugh-out-loud moments as the dinosaur put together in its way, caught between its former opponent and one-time mentor.
Johnny feels equally uncomfortable (often hilariously) pursuing a relationship with Carmen (Vanessa Rubio) while training her son Miguel (Xolo Maridueña).
At the same time, both Daniel and Johnny continue to have complicated interactions with their own children while acting as surrogate fathers for others.
Frankly, first-class revivals are so rare that it seemed inevitable that “Cobra Kai” would experience a misstep or simply run out of gas. Thankfully, that’s certainly not the case with season four, which — a pop culture breakthrough and Emmy nomination with its graduation from YouTube to Netflix — is admirable for everyone from seniors to teens. Just turning Kove’s 70-something Kreese into the central heavy has a certain audacity in a show that spends half its time looking like “Dawson’s Creek”.
Despite the dojo’s well-known slogan “Never die”, “Cobra Kai” cannot live forever. For now, however, it remains a model of how to take a well-known title and breathe life into it, without taking itself too seriously. Even when the karate action gets a little tedious, in terms of deftly milking a concept, it’s hard not to admire its shape.
“Cobra Kai” will begin its fourth season on Netflix on December 31.