Cobra Kai Season 5 Spoilers Ahead
In every way it matters, Cobra Kai Season 5 is the series’ most decisive showdown yet. While last season focused heavily on the treacherous lengths people were willing to go through to defeat each other, this season gave us the kind of balance that worked superbly to cement the show’s theme. Karate is ultimately about achieving balance, yet Cobra Kai as a dojo never understood this, and seasons before needed to harp on the why. Today, the focus lies in getting to the snake’s head, cutting it from its lies and deception once and for all. Of course, that’s not the case by the end, given the jaw-dropping (yet unsurprising) prison break, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
This season felt like the show’s penultimate run, and while we don’t have confirmation about Season 6 yet or whether it’ll be the last, the stories we watched unfold in Cobra Kai’s fifth season feel like they’re headed towards the endgame. If this were the Avengers Saga—this leaves us with the same bitter but oddly satisfying viewing experience that Infinity War did. There are battles still to be won and people whose growth needs to unfold, but now more than ever, we’re on the right path.
Cobra Kai Season 5 gives viewers the perfect balance between vicious and virtuous, playing Miyagi-Do’s motto into the show’s arc to meticulously bring forward moments that juxtapose one another with effortless strikes.
The Stories of Redemption
The season, in a nutshell, is about redemption. It’s redemption for Johnny, Robby, Tory, and even (hopefully) every kid at Cobra Kai. We watched too many places and people burn in the hands of one man, but a few refused to let it go further, and Johnny Lawrence is at the top of the list.
William Zabka undoubtedly has a blast bringing this role to life, but nothing is more apparent than how much he enjoyed this particular season. There’s a light in Johnny that we’ve yet to see, and it starts with the moment he brings Miguel home. It ignites further with an unbeatable fervency when Carmen confirms her pregnancy. Thus, the story we’re watching unfold in front of us is of a man who understands the importance of the second chance he’s been given.
Johnny wants nothing more than to be a better father to Robby, and this way, he not only gets his first-born son back, but he has a chance to redeem all the wrongs from his past with the new baby. Zabka touches on these subtle joys through Johnny’s typical messiness with swift changes in his behavior that are incredibly rewarding to see as a viewer. He’s making the difficult choices necessary to become a better person and to fight for the people and things that matter despite how utterly terrifying they might be.
And to later see him in moments like jamming out to “Eye of the Tiger” with Daniel and Chozen is icing on top of an already fine cake. But perhaps the most dynamic part of all this is the subtlety in this entire development. Johnny’s been on this road for a while now, but though he’s typically reckless, he isn’t taking the same risks where his redemption is concerned. His impulses, though they lead to the ending we get, are stilled drummed by a meticulous, unceasing desire to fight for his family.
And in similar ways, Robby is now rightfully following in his father’s footsteps, backtracking on the moments where his decisions resulted in unfortunate tragedies because of Cobra Kai. We also have the chance to look into Tory’s struggles as she grapples with the truth behind Silver’s actions and her own decisions in the aftermath. None of which are easy to do, and the season allows the characters to be messy in their attempts to try. These messy moments result in a realistic depiction of redemption on a show that can border on exaggerated far too often.
In the past, my frustrations with Tory were particularly hard to move beyond. I didn’t even care to see her redeemed because something about how she was written was frankly too much to feel for. It’s as though the show was trying so hard to make her unlikable that they made her detestable beyond thoughtful complexities. We were given bouts of petty teenage drama instead of careful constructions of what it means for a person to grow up too soon and have no one beside them. But this season thankfully utilizes Peyton List’s abilities as an actress and understands where it wants to take her as a character.
Tory is not only more fleshed out, but it’s easier to empathize with her actions after the fifth season. She doesn’t feel like an overtly dramatized television character. She feels real. It’s easy to see raw heartaches piercing through her. It’s easier to see those complexities hidden beyond the tough girl facade. I came out of this season as a bigger fan of Tory’s than anyone else, which is always fascinating when a show can take what you’re so against and surprise you with compassion.
A Terrifying Villain
Martin Kove’s John Kreese is terrifying, but Thomas Ian Griffith’s depiction of Terry Silver in Cobra Kai Season 5 is on another level. Silver was always the most threatening of senseis, which is still the case here because, for the first time, despite what we see with everyone coming together beside Daniel, I genuinely wasn’t sure anyone would take Silver down. Silver could’ve gone out on top, and it would be entirely believable because the vicious approach to everything is appropriately haunting. And Griffith is so good at bringing this character’s callousness to life that it makes it that much more believable.
Still, as much as his threatening edges are believable, so are the moments where he finally falls because the writing takes us through defeating him. Daniel couldn’t use Miyagi-Do teachings to defeat Silver—such tranquil approaches would never work for a man like him, but giving him a taste of his own medicine, robbing him of breath would be the one thing to take him down—to see him with handcuffs finally. To win against a man like Silver, the team, kids and adults included, needed to play dirty. It’s why the impulsive night to take him down ultimately works because if they sought out more strategic approaches, he’d somehow still be one step ahead of them. He wouldn’t lose. This way, they had a chance at defeating him because a large part of finding balance throughout the season meant moving in ways the opponent would without sinking fully to their level.
When the showdown with Silver and Daniel happens, it’s easy to believe that his downfall results from losing his own head in the spiral of greed, malice, and pride. Still, there’s a high chance that we’ll still see Silver in the future, and when we do, it’ll be intriguing to see what his life is like behind bars as opposed to Kreese’s.
There’s also the matter of Sensei Kim Da-Eun (Alicia Hannah-Kim), who’s utterly fascinating as a villain. There’s so much we could say about her this season, but more than anything, I can’t stop thinking about what she could bring to the story next year that will allow us a perspective that truly challenges Kreese, Johnny, and Daniel.
The Perfect Balance
This season ultimately finds an exquisite balance between the head and the heart, constantly giving viewers poignantly emotional and thrilling moments. Seeing the return of characters like Jessica Andrews (Robyn Lively) and allowing the women to have fun brought to our screens moments that layered the overarching story faultlessly. The action never once felt like it overshadowed the tender beats of growth, and those critical moments of vulnerability always came at the right moments.
The season also brings plenty of joy in the quiet moments where it allows families to just be. Robby and Miguel finding common ground then breaking bread together are my favorite parts of the entire season, and especially because work undoubtedly goes into making it a possibility. The boys don’t get along quickly, and they never would—it would require time and a fight that worked to showcase precisely why they were at odds and exactly what happened to push them over the edge. They needed to reflect on the place they never wanted to go back to in order to band together and stand firm next to their father figures and senseis.
In essence, Cobra Kai Season 5 comes down hard on the damage a single choice can do, attempting to harp down on the fact that it’s imperative to find balance in life to cross the bridges that appear. It requires looking inward and outward, then digging into the places where people see others as they indeed are (and who they can be). The season emphasizes the idea of not giving up on people through characters like Robby and Kenny, and even, in more ways than one, Johnny.
Second chances aren’t always granted in life, but when it happens, the thematic representation of taking them is loud and significant. Cobra Kai is a show that emphasizes second, third, and fourth chances. It’s a show that doesn’t give up on its characters, and where it will lead us next is yet to be known. A prisoner on the loose, one man behind bars, and a group of kids looking for guidance leave us counting the hours until we’ll see them next.
Cobra Kai Season 5 is now streaming on Netflix.