Happy summer, and welcome back to the Valley! It’s only been a little over eight months since the last season of Cobra Kai, our shortest gap between seasons yet. And “Long, Long Way From Home” picks up right where we left off, promising another high-stakes season. More than ever, Cobra Kai is the Goliath to Miyagi-Do’s David — though this time, David isn’t even allowed to practice his karate skills to take down Goliath.
Last season started with a bang, immediately giving fans what they wanted with Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso’s new combined dojo. Season five, by comparison, has a lot of housekeeping to take care of; everyone is scattered to the winds with both Eagle Fang and Miyagi-Do forced to disband after their loss to Cobra Kai at the All Valley. That makes for a slightly less exciting start than last time, though the end of the premiere sets up a very promising story line.
So far, Daniel is sticking to his word to Terry Silver: Miyagi-Do is shutting down because keeping it open might put many kids’ lives in danger. The rivalry with Silver has become an adult issue, if it wasn’t already. It’s reasonable for Daniel to want to fight back; Silver has cornered the market on karate, and the kids under his sway deserve protection. But as Amanda points out, they need to worry about their own kids’ basic safety. It’s a “karate miracle” no one got seriously hurt in the tournament. (Amanda LaRusso remains the show’s funniest mouthpiece for commenting on the utter absurdity of how serious this community’s obsession with karate is.)
Of course, Daniel has no real intention of letting Silver win, and now he has a new ally: Chozen Toguchi, his onetime rival who almost killed him back in 1985 in The Karate Kid Part II. When they made peace during Daniel’s trip to Okinawa in season three, Daniel realized how much Chozen had to offer as a sensei; now he wants his help in exposing Silver and showing everyone in the Valley he isn’t the altruistic philanthropist he appears to be.
Visiting the flagship Cobra Kai dojo, Chozen recognizes Silver’s moves as the teachings of Kim Sun-Yung, the South Korean sensei whom Silver mentioned when he first introduced himself to Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid Part III. Daniel thought Silver made that story up, but come on — did you really think the Cobra Kai writers would let a name from the original movies go unused? Besides, we technically already knew Kim was the real deal; during Kreese’s Vietnam War flashbacks in season three, Captain Turner mentioned that Kim had trained him in Korea. Daniel doesn’t need to convey to Chozen how much of a threat Silver is; deception was a cornerstone of Kim’s teaching, and Silver uses the same tactics. “To catch serpent, you must think like serpent,” Chozen says. “We will use his style against him.”
At the end of the episode, we see exactly what that means: Chozen is prepared to become a sensei at Cobra Kai and take it down from the inside as a mole. (And hey, if he gets a fat Cobra Kai paycheck from Silver while he’s at it, even better.) It’s a thrilling development: Characters in Cobra Kai are always flipping sides, but we haven’t gotten a real mole story line yet, nor have we seen someone manage to trick Silver and beat him at his own game.
The rest of the episode deals with Miguel’s spontaneous trip to Ceuta, Mexico, to find his father, one Hector Salazar. It all feels a bit predictable: There’s a minor local threat in the form of a few Australian guys who take almost all of Miguel’s cash, followed by a case of mistaken identity when Miguel meets the wrong Hector, followed by the moment when he accidentally stumbles upon the real Hector. This Hector seems much kinder than the first: He has a wife and a kid and seems known for his generosity, though I wouldn’t trust him yet. When Hector’s son kicks a ball into the street and runs after it, Miguel swiftly scoops the kid up before he can get hit by a truck. Grateful, Hector invites him to dinner, saying, “I feel like we’ve met somewhere before.”
It seems as though there could only be a few possible options to wrap up this story line efficiently, unless Hector decides to step up as a parent and follow Miguel back to California. Regardless, I hope Miguel makes it back soon. The Valley isn’t the same without him.
Luckily, Johnny and Robby are on the move. When Robby first finds out their father-son bonding time is actually in service of finding the kid with whom he’s always competing for Johnny’s attention, he’s pissed. But he comes around quickly enough after Johnny explains that he owes Miguel the same way he owes his own son. Robby decides to stay and help, likely remembering that he, too, has some wrongs he needs to right with Miguel (you know, when he broke his spine after kicking him over a railing at school). When the Australian guys who robbed Miguel try the same gambit with Johnny, he and his son easily handle the situation, the first big fight of the season. There’s the father-son bonding Robby was looking for!
With all this time devoted to the direct aftermath of season four, there’s no time to check in with many of the other characters. We’ll have to wait to see how Tory is handling the revelation that her All Valley victory was based on a lie and how Kreese is handling prison — as well as checking in with Demetri, Eli, Kenny, and Anthony LaRusso, none of whom get any attention in this premiere. Still, even if the season isn’t off to the rip-roaring start season four had, the pieces are here for a great follow-up.
Mr. Miyagi’s Little Trees
• Sam is still haunted by how the All Valley shook out, rewatching clips of Tory beating her. On a call with Miguel, she gets justifiably angry that he won’t ask about how her fight with Tory went, only for him to ask, “How are you making this about you right now?” Curious what their relationship will look like when he gets back.
• Ah, yes. The orangey filter to show we’re in Mexico. Classic. (To be fair, the series occasionally uses similar coloring in California too.)