'Cobra Kai' Season 4: Daniel LaRusso is the Worst!We're striking first on Daniel and not pulling any punches.
Ahh how the mighty have fallen. Daniel LaRusso, the boy-turned-man who was our beloved underdog hero in The Karate Kid, has somehow transformed into someone who many of us can't help but root against in Netflix's Cobra Kai. Is it because he has everything he ever wanted and seems out of touch as a result? Is it because he's raised two spoiled and bratty children? Is it because he can't stop blabbing about Mr. Miyagi (who definitely would've pulled a Johnny Lawrence and demanded silence from him by now if he were still alive)? Perhaps all of the above.
(Before I get into this, let me unequivocally state one thing: We will always love Ralph Macchio; even Daniel's awfulness can't ruin that!)
Let's dig a little deeper on why Cobra Kai Daniel can't help but put off fans who once loved him so.
Let's take inventory for a sec, friends. Daniel has a successful business, is a local celebrity, has a lovely wife, Amanda (Courtney Henggeler) (who is by far the best LaRusso of the bunch), a seemingly-great family (more on this later), and fancy house — basically, he didn't need to get back into the karate world, he just did it to mess with Johnny. Now he seems uninterested in putting work into his car dealership business and puts minimal energy (for the most part) into raising his kids compared to how much of himself he's dedicating to Miyagi-Do.
It was cute and exciting when he was 17 but now he's a middle aged man with a real life he's put on the back burner to relive his glory days, and that's a lot harder to root for. He ain't that bullied lil' kid from New Jersey anymore.
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I'm not saying that Johnny is that mature himself, in fact, he rarely is, but we've known this about him since the original movie, we've come to expect this behavior and somehow, despite it all, root for him. Even when Johnny is immature, he's trying his best in his own weird way, and doesn't try to hide the fact that he struggles with being vulnerable or acting like the bigger man. I respect that he is who he presents himself to be.
Daniel, however, presents himself as this enlightened and accepting figure, what with his breathing exercises and bonsai trees and koi pond, and yet he routinely fails to be the bigger man with Johnny. I get it, this was your high school bully, and he really is a bit of a douche even still, but come on, the man is clearly struggling and doesn't want to ask you for help because he still lives with the humiliation of you kicking his ass and stealing his girlfriend in high school. JEEZ DANIEL, PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER! Sorry, I'll calm down (how Cobra Kai of me, I apologize). Ahem.
Basically Daniel has it all but that isn't enough for him. He gets back into karate for the express purpose of destroying Cobra Kai and ruining Johnny's life even more than it already has been (which is saying something, because when we meet the guy, he's an alcoholic deadbeat dad who doesn't know how to use the Internet). And in a downright Shakespearean move, Daniel makes it even more personal by nabbing Johnny's son, Robby (Tanner Buchanan), and his pseudo-son, Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) as his pupils slash car cleaners (I'm no longer buying that it's a training exercise, and more convinced that Dan the Man is just lazy) slash adopted (stolen) sons. Meanwhile, Daniel's own son is largely ignored and is a bit of a menace because of it, but more on that in...
And I'm being charitable by calling them brats because wowee zowie, Sam (Mary Mouser) and Anthony LaRusso (Griffin Santopietro) are just awful. Daniel has managed to raised entitled and self-centered whiners who seem to take great joy in picking on those below them or who can't fight back (i.e. Tory (Peyton List) and Kenny (Dallas Dupree Young)), and they see themselves as totally justified in these acts just because their little bubbles of privilege are threatened.
It was totally messed up of Tory to you know, nearly kill Sam in that school fight (where were the teachers by the way?! This show makes me think the Valley is the Wild West, but with karate and dojos instead of shootouts and saloons) at the end of Season 2, but we come to learn that Tory has a difficult family situation and no one on her side. She's been backed into a corner and is lashing out in fear. She doesn't have many options or opportunities, especially when it comes to 'being the bigger person,' but Sam does, and yet this past season, she took every opportunity she could to go out of her way to make Tory's life hell.
Meanwhile, friggin' Anthony LaRusso, who you may previously remember as 'Little Punk Glued to His Phone' is now 'Slightly Taller Punk With a Crappy Friend Group.' Said group goes out of their way to emotionally and physically torment sweet new kid Kenny (which begins his own villain origin story, nice going LaPusso), and even though he seems to know what he's doing is wrong, Anthony goes along with it because he's terrified of being ostracized by his (awful) group of (terrors) friends and feels threatened that his crush (who has clearly completely friend-zoned him) seems to like Kenny.
Daniel LaRusso, the king of defensive karate and 'doing the right thing' (or preaching it, at least), has raised two bullies, and leaves his wife to do the work of disciplining, which she clearly can't really do since she's too busy RUNNING THE BUSINESS THAT DANIEL HAS ABANDONED! Poor Amanda deserves better.
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Star Wars fans may recall the words of intergalactic space villain Kylo Ren, who once said 'Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.' I think that Daniel LaRusso should take his advice, because wow, you'd have thought HE was the one who lost the big 1984 All-Valley tournament for how stuck he is in the past.
Daniel's inability to let go of what seems to be his two or three glory years doing competitive karate is sad, but even more frustrating is the way he parades around Miyagi's teachings and Japanese culture (I mean seriously, the boba, the bonsai trees, and the fact he's been to Okinawa a few times and thinks he's the ambassador to Japan? This is insanity). He takes his few brushes with Japanese culture over the years and his two karate championships and turns them into things that benefit him and his business. Need a refresher on how he does that? Happy to share:
And that was just in Season 1!
Also the way Daniel went back to Okinawa last season seemingly for the express purpose of flirting with an old flame was weird, right? Because I got weird vibes. I'll say it again, Amanda deserves better.
Lastly, the way Daniel shamelessly invokes Mr. Miyagi's name just feels wrong at this point. It's like how we as a society can't seem to stop making content about Princess Diana. Here's a general suggestion, how about we just let the dead REST ALREADY?! Poor Mr. Miyagi. I don't think he'd want this as his legacy, you know? He was a chill and cheeky guy. He'd probably pummel Daniel for the way he's been acting throughout this series and for making a dojo that's basically just a Miyagi Museum.
Maybe next season of Cobra Kai, his ghost will smack some sense into ol' Danny boy and humble him into becoming the scrappy underdog Daniel LaRusso we all know and love. Here's hoping!
Watch Cobra Kai on Netflix