Cobra Kai fans have been waiting a particularly long time for the series to return, with Season 2 having premiered back in April 2019, when the show was still a YouTube Premium offering. Luckily for them, the wait is almost over, as Cobra Kai Season 3 drops on Netflix this Friday, a week ahead of its originally planned release date. So fans will be able to kick off 2021 with the next chapter of the Karate Kid saga, and judging by the critical reception rolling in, this chapter is quite the enjoyable watch, just like its predecessors.
Starting off, Germain Lussier from io9 described Cobra Kai Season 3 as the show’s most “confident, nostalgic and entertaining season yet,” which is a result of both the main cast members continuing to deliver great performances (although some of the supporting characters are mishandled) and featuring some of the best Karate Kid film series references yet, including a few players from The Karate Kid Part II making their grand return.
After two seasons of great television we expect Cobra Kai to be good. Being 'good' isn’t enough. It has to get better and better and season three does that. Sure, there are a few stumbles this season—such as the adults hogging the spotlight—but the entirety of the story is so enriching and entertaining, it still works toward bettering the whole.
Entertainment Weekly’s Darren Finch was similarly pleased with Cobra Kai Season 3, giving it a B grade in his review. Acknowledging that this isn’t the series’ best season, Finch nonetheless felt that these new episodes “form a satisfying expansion” that understandably get off to a rough start for its main characters given the way Season 2 ended, but pave the way for compelling plot threads.
A high energy showdown for youth in revolt, alongside a never-more-sensitive portrayal of middle-aged reminiscence. It reaffirms Cobra Kai as one of the cleverest reboots in our nostalgia-drunk era. The series crafts a moral fable beyond any obvious definitions of irony and sincerity.
Rafael Motamayor from Slashfilm stated that Cobra Kai remains “a nuanced piece of commentary” on the Karate Kid franchise and its legacy, and even drew some parallels between the Netflix series and the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, with Season 3 taking a The Last Jedi-like approach with its story. However, Motamayor did note that the new season sometimes leans too heavily on “the cyclical nature of its themes,” although that didn’t detract from the overall quality.
In an age of reboots and sequels, Cobra Kai continues to make the case that there are still ways to recycle 40-year-old characters and stories and make them feel fresh, timely, and necessary.
All this isn’t to say that Cobra Kai Season 3 is 100% liked by critics in some form or fashion. Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall stamped this new batch of episodes with a 2.5 out of 5 score, commenting that much like how The Karate Kid Part III was an inferior follow-up to the previous two movies, Season 3 fails to measure up to the show’s first two seasons. Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso’s stories have more depth than the rest, but Sepinwall said they “can’t carry a show that’s increasingly goofy everywhere else.”
… The tension between the different dojos has long since crossed the line from appealingly larger-than-life to outright ludicrous. It’s a peril of continuing the story of this rivalry for long.
Finally, Alex McLevy from AV Club gave Cobra Kai Season 3 a B- grade, laying out how there’s “a lot of humor and good-natured theatrics accompanying the story this time around,” though its attempts to get viewers to care about all the characters don’t always work out. Ultimately, the season shines most when it “gets back to basics” and focuses on “the dynamics and interplay between its leads.”
Season three pummels you with enough broad laughs and over-the-top twists to keep you coming back to its televised dojo, no matter how often it backslides into hokum.