Series Review: Cobra Kai Season 3 (Netflix)

By: Jesse Striewski

When The Karate Kid sequel series Cobra Kai first emerged in 2018, the world wasn’t quite prepared for the awesomeness that was so unexpectedly unleashed upon it. It instantly united pop culture nerds across multiple medians, bringing back ’80s nostalgia in full force for the young and old alike.

In season one, we were re-introduced to the characters Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), who are thrusted back into each other’s lives more than three decades later. Daniel has since gone on to become the owner of a successful car dealership, while Lawrence stayed the same beer-chugging, metal-loving loose cannon he always was. Things shake up when Johnny decides to take a leap of faith and re-open Cobra Kai, which in turn re-opens some old wounds in the process.

Season two focused more on the two old enemies each operating their own respective dojos, with new conflicts arising from their new students (and old mentors). Unlike the first season, more emphasis was put on the rivalries between newcomers Miguel (Xolo Mariduena) and Robby (Tanner Buchanan), as well as Sam (Mary Mouser) and Tory (Peyton List). It also brought back John Kreese (Martin Kove) in a more extended and sinister role, and included a bittersweet, albeit brief tear-jerking reunion with some of the other original members of Cobra Kai (which would unfortunately prove to be Rob Garrison’s final portrayal of Tommy before his passing in 2019).

Naturally, season three takes over directly where the second one left off, with everyone dealing with the repercussions of the final battle that saw Miguel seriously injured and put into a coma. There’s still plenty of unresolved wars between multiple factions, as each character grapples with what happened and tries to return to some sense of normalcy.

And of course, there’s plenty of surprises along the way as well; Elizabeth Shue finally returns as Ali (now actually Dr. Ali Mills Schwarber) after Johnny’s attempt to reconnect with her via social media in the previous season. And even familiar Okinawan faces from The Karate Kid Part II, including Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomito), and Chozen (Yuji Okumoto) return, leading to some tense moments between Daniel and the latter before ultimately bringing some closure. Even former Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider manages to squeeze in a brief cameo, too.

But what makes us invest so much time into shows like Cobra Kai has got to be the reflections of ourselves we’re able to see from these characters and their struggles. They’re far from invincible, and whether you were more of a Daniel or Johnny type growing up, there’s something truly there for everyone.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Series Review: The Mandalorian Season 2 (Disney+)

By: Jesse Striewski

Last year, series creator Jon Favreau surprised the world over with hands down one of the most imaginative additions to the Star Wars universe in recent memory, The Mandalorian. Favreau has opened up all new worlds, ripe with possibilities for the franchise, and it’s no surprise the show has taken off the way it has.

In the first season we met Din Djarin, or “Mando” (played by Pedro Pascal), a bounty hunter who is assigned a bounty known only as “The Child” (now of course known to fans as “Baby Yoda”), but rather than turning him over, ends up going rogue and protecting him in a very father-like role. Carl Weathers and Gina Carano helped round out that season.

Without giving too much away, season 2 expands on that same premise, and brings back a number of the same cast as the first season, and each episode still plays out like it’s own, separate mini movie. But what really moves The Mandalorian along is it’s use of drama, and the addition of such beloved characters from the franchise as Boba Fett, and even the one and only Luke Skywalker, that has propelled season 2 to new heights.

The response and momentum caused from this season undeniably infectious; at least three more spin offs like it have already been announced (The Book of Boba Fett, Rangers of the New Republic, and Ahsoka). From the looks of things, The Mandalorian was only the beginning. This is the way indeed.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Series Review: Stranger Things Season 3 (Netflix)

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By: Jesse Striewski

Every once in awhile, a cultural phenomenon will come along that changes the landscape of things as we know it. Since 2016, the Netflix series Stranger Things has been doing just that. With the show’s third season having been out now for just under a month, it’s due time to analyze the series’ latest outing (and with as few spoilers as possible, of course).

The skeptics out there may find it a stretch for yet more freaky events to find their way to the same basic group of kids in the same small Indiana town (circa 1985), yet it still works. The writing is still witty, the main cast still (mostly) stellar, and the atmosphere is still as spot on as ever.

David Harbor and Winona Ryder again lead the way as Jim Hopper and Joyce Byers, while Millie Bobby Brown and Gaten Matarazzo continue to stick out above the younger cast as Eleven and Dustin, respectively. Newcomer Maya Hawke (daughter of actors Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman) is a welcomed edition to the cast as well.

Without revealing too much about the story, this time around there’s multiple sub-plots that involve everything from the usual hideous creatures, to Russian conspiracy. Eventually the puzzles are all put into place before everything is interconnected at the Starcourt Mall, and all hell truly breaks loose.

There’s definitely no shortage of options to choose from when it comes to shows to watch these days. But it’s rare for one to be as well thought-out, put together, and engaging as this show has consistently been.  Every nail-biting episode leaves you hanging on for the next, and each new episode delivers. Instead of relying on dumbed-down sex and gore like so many other movies and shows, Stranger Things has managed to focus on the human side of things perfectly.

Watching this series with my family for the past three years has reminded me of being a kid in the ’80s, watching eventful shows like V in complete wonder. I’ll take that feeling again any day.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars