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‘Cobra Kai’ review: ‘Lull’

COBRA KAI
Season 2, Episode 7
“Lull”
Available on YouTube Premium
GRADE: C+

One of the underlying themes of YouTube’s “Cobra Kai” has been war and conflict. More specifically, the carelessness and unintended consequences which lead to war and conflict and the effects of such on those involved. From the first episode of the series, we’ve witnessed Johnny (William Zabka) as he builds his new Cobra Kai dojo with the intention of not only reclaiming control of his life but to also agitate Daniel LaRusso, the man who beat him in the All-Valley Tournament over 30 years ago. As a former “soldier” of Kreese’s Cobra Kai “army”, Johnny’s scars run deep. But, Johnny’s also made strides, embracing change and smoothing his hard edges. The same can’t be said for Kreese (Martin Kove) who opens “Lull” by visiting Daniel (Ralph Macchio) at Miyagi-Do for the purpose of telling him that his students had better be ready because a war is coming between his dojo and Cobra Kai. “Peace”, he says “is just a lull between battles.”

As much as Daniel preaches “Karate as self-defense”, he knows, deep down, that things cannot stay that way and sets out to train his students to…defend themselves…so, I guess he’s still right? So, while Kreese has Cobra Kai’s students hunting one another in the “Coyote Creek” woods (for a show set in Southern California, a lot of time is spent in the woods), Daniel has one student stand in the middle of a ring and orders his other students to attack that person one by one, like in a Bruce Lee movie. This is all well and good, but all of this feels like extraneous set-up and padding to get to a fairly obvious conclusion.

The amount of training sequences and montages are, of course, welcome in a show about martial arts but it’s also to the show’s detriment, burying at least one story that deserved more attention. Daniel’s wife, Amanda (Courtney Henggeler), has now grown tired of Daniel shirking his duties at LaRusso Auto and doesn’t like “waking up in an empty bed”. It only gets worse when Daniel trains his students inside a giant walk-in refrigerator because it’s too hot to train outside. How Daniel was able to procure access to a walk-in refrigerator is anyone’s guess and I’m still wondering how extreme cold is better than extreme heat (Daniel’s actual explanation for both is “You can’t choose what environment you’re in when somebody attacks you”) but here we are, watching kids kick and punch inside a walk-in fridge. The entire ordeal causes Daniel to be late for an insanely important meeting involving the promotion of Anoush (Dan Ahdoot), a plot point so critical, the actor playing him has been seen all of two seconds the entire season and isn’t even featured in the episode.

The most compelling story in “Lull” is Cobra Kai training in the woods where it’s revealed that Hawk (Jacob Bertrand) was the one who stole Miyagi’s Medal of Honor and wears it, like a trophy, around his neck. This leads to a pretty great battle between Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) and Hawk “for the title”, so to speak, a confrontation which culminates in a fairly goofy climax where “Stingray” (series newcomer Paul Walter Hauser), one of the newer Cobra Kai members rises up from a pile of leaves and steals Miguel’s headband after monologuing him to death. It’s highly unbelievable but “Stingray” has been in need of some sort of character validation.

Ultimately, “Lull” is sunk by the Miyagi-Do side of things. While Amanda’s struggles seem true-to-life, her issues with Daniel and the troubles over at LaRusso Auto just seem to come out of nowhere, so it feels less like something critical and more like something that was invented for the sake of plot movement. Last week’s “Take a Right” was filler done right: surreal, entertaining, and emotional fare which, while having no real relation to the overall plot or narrative, still served as a personal lesson to Johnny. “Lull” isn’t a terrible episode of YouTube’s “Cobra Kai”. It’s just safe and smacks of the writers biding their time as we move, inexorably, toward a finale which has all but promised the audience epic fireworks.

OTHER STUFF THAT EXISTS IN THIS DOJO

  • We haven’t spoken much about “Stingray” as a character. When Johnny was repairing a mirror that broke in his dojo (a result of his fight with Kreese in the opener), “Stingray” (“Ray” was his real name when we were first introduced to him) was the guy who sold him the mirror at a hardware store. Hausen, a stand-up comedian, is great as “Stingray” and plays him like the total dweeb he is and is all in with the character. Like the neurotic Demetri (Gianni Decenzo) of Miyagi-Do, he serves as the comic relief within Cobra Kai, something that seemed to clash with ideals of both Johnny and Kreese. It was nice to see him finally win over Kreese, at the very least.
  • Johnny boots Kreese out of Cobra Kai. Again. Something tells me that this isn’t really the end of Kreese — especially with the seemingly casual, throwaway line, “There were bills to be paid while you gone”. Oh boy…
  • While I’m a fan of the older cast interacting with one another, the confrontation between Kreese and Daniel in the cold open was just so-so and by-the-numbers. I mean, a physical fight might have been more interesting here. Instead, it’s just more of Martin Kove hamming it up and acting cryptic and sinister while smoking a cigar. Better yet, I almost wish we had Kreese exploring the dojo (and maybe taking a look at a framed photo of Miyagi) before Daniel arrived. Instead, we got what we got: Kreese whisper-talking about war and conflict and then excusing himself. It’s neat but not nearly as compelling as it should have been.
  • Robby (Tanner Buchanan) and Sam (Mary Mouser) finally have their first kiss in this episode. Am I the only one who thinks that there’s zero chemistry between the two?
  • And I’d buy Miguel’s “We’re not all assholes” line if he didn’t tell Johnny that “Kreese taught us that this is real life, not a tournament” just 2 minutes earlier. Still, Miguel returning Miyagi’s medal to Robby goes a long way for a fairly conflicted character.

About Matt Perri

Matt Perri
Matt Perri is one of those literary Ronin you’ve never heard of until he shows up and tells you he’s a literary Ronin. He’s a native Californian, a film buff, old school gamer geek, and a sports/entertainment fan. A lifelong Giants, 49ers and Sharks fan, he also covers the world of pro-wrestling, writing recaps for WWE Monday Night RAW and Total Divas at Scott’s Blog of Doom. You can follow the guy on Twitter via @PerriTheSmark as well as here at The Workprint and his own blog, We Hate Your Gimmick.

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One comment

  1. Anoush had about ten seconds of time, but he was in Lull. And, no, you’re not the only one who sees zero chemistry between Sam and Robby.

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