Warning: SPOILERS for Cobra Kai season 3.
Cobra Kai is a sequel series to the Karate Kid movies, but judging by all the flashback scenes that have been interposed in season 3, it would seem the creators think that wasn’t obvious. Netflix acquired Cobra Kai from YouTube Red in summer 2020 and released season 3, which had already wrapped production long before the acquisition, in January 2021 – and the streaming giant wants to make sure the series can continue for at least one more season since they’ve renewed it for season 4.
Hopefully, when Cobra Kai season 4 does release, it won’t have as many unnecessary flashbacks. The first two seasons had their fair share of flashbacks, but those became more prominent in season 3 due to the storyline and the inclusion of characters from The Karate Kid 2. Because it’s been 34 years since that movie released, whenever a new character showed up – Kumiko, Chozen, and then Yuna – Cobra Kai would take a minute to show scenes of them from the movie. And that wasn’t the last time either, seeing as it was done again when Ali Mills appeared and several other times throughout the season.
One flashback here and there would’ve been fine when the moments really mattered, but incorporating them multiple times in one episode needlessly extends the runtime. Furthermore, it shows a disconnect between the producers and the audience. At this point, practically every major movie or TV show is connected to some larger franchise – or, at least to a previous material or source material. And so, each release comes with its own Easter eggs and references, but there’s no need to take time to explain each one. It can be appreciated in spurts, but using flashbacks so often comes off as hand-holding and a bit too overt.
Another major streaming hit that also relies on past films (some from the ‘80s) is The Mandalorian. And by comparison, The Mandalorian’s references to Star Wars lore are much, much deeper cuts than Cobra Kai’s references are to Karate Kid. If Cobra Kai is going to bring back one of the villains from Karate Kid 2, it’s unnecessary to have audiences relive the final fight. That would be like showing Anakin Skywalker killing Mace Windu when Ahsoka Tano references a fallen Jedi. The audience is smart enough to piece together the hints – and if, for some reason, some people aren’t familiar with the character or story, the Easter eggs and references would encourage them to watch the Karate Kid films. After all, The Karate Kid 6 wouldn’t include such flashbacks if it ever released.
None of this is to say the voiceovers from Mr. Miyagi aren’t appreciated or well done, because they certainly are, and they’re well used at the appropriate times. In fact, that’s an approach the creative team should take for the rest of the series, because taking a break from the story to show a cutscene every time a new person is introduced, or every time a reference is made, is unneeded. There’s a level of trust that needs to be placed on viewers – right now, Cobra Kai‘s flashbacks to the Karate Kid films highlight an apprehension on the part of the creative team. Perhaps they don’t feel comfortable with their viewers knowing the Karate Kid movies, and if the people don’t, it’s still pointless to have references accompanied with a form of video annotations.
Next: Cobra Kai Season 3 Ending & Season 4 Dojo War Setup Explained