“Strike First. Strike Hard. No Mercy.” When you’re young and powerless, trying to figure out your way in the world, that can seem like a powerful mantra—it’s a simple justification, requiring little in the way of moral judgment. As Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) explains in this clip from Netflix’s Cobra Kai, “Life shows no mercy, so neither do we. We do whatever it takes to keep our heads above water. We do whatever it takes to keep moving forward. We do whatever it takes to win.”
If you’ve been watching Cobra Kai, you know things are a little more complicated than that. The series picks up 34 years after The Karate Kid, when Lawrence, the movie’s villain, has become a directionless 50-year-old unable to reconcile himself with his past.
Looking for purpose, he starts teaching a new generation of misfits karate. The disciplined practice helps them feel powerful, but as the fighting montage at the center of the clip shows, showing “no mercy” makes them into bullies themselves. Single-minded devotion to winning is no way to live.
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Or, as Lawrence explains to his students, “This creed on the wall: Follow it to the letter, it’ll make you strong. It’ll make you formidable. It’ll also make you an asshole.” Older and wiser, he tries to keep his young charges from repeating his mistakes.
The clip nicely sums up the appeal of Cobra Kai. If you like what you see, the first two seasons are streaming now on Netflix, with season three releasing in 2021.
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