The third season of Cobra Kai kicked off on January 1st, which was a perfect way to begin 2021. The series, which moved over from the now-defunct YouTube Red, found a huge audience on Netflix, and the third season is getting mostly rave reviews. I loved it, too, although I thought it had a bit of a “Negan” problem, which is to say that the season may have spent a little too much time on John Kreese and the bullying tactics of the new Cobra Kai. Still, in the end, it was as rousing as ever and closed out the season in a way that was both satisfying and successfully set up the fourth season.
If there is one glaring, weak link in Cobra Kai, however, it’s Anthony LaRusso. Viewers may remember him from season one as the lazy, entitled, tech-obsessed brat who cared more about whip cream than he did karate.
To be clear, however, Anthony LaRusso was a Season One problem and not a Season Three problem, and that’s because Anthony LaRusso had only one scene in the entire third season, lingering on screen only long enough for viewers to wonder, “Is that the same kid?” It is, in fact, the same kid, Griffin Santopietro, who clearly hit his grown spurt between the second and third season (he’s 13 years old).
As it stands, however, Anthony was all but written out to the show. There were a couple of passing references to him this season (mostly about being at sleepovers). He obviously couldn’t be killed off the series, because Cobra Kai is not that kind of show. The original problem, unfortunately, is that in an effort to draw a stark contrast between Anthony and his father, Daniel LaRusso, in the first season, the writers overshot and annihilated the character so badly that they could only bring him back for a few scenes in three episodes in Season Two, and just the one in Season Three, where he eats a popsicle and expresses mock disappointment in his sister. At least his brand is still strong.
I understand why the writers tried what they tried in the opening season, and the idea was a good one. They wanted to show that Anthony had become basically the opposite of who Daniel was in the original Karate Kid — wealthy, entitled, lazy — and to illustrate that, for all his great qualities, Daniel still had some flaws, mostly in the parenting department. He is raising essentially his own Johnny Lawrence without any athletic skill. The character, however, did not resonate.
The audience rejected it; in fact, the scenes with Anthony in the opening season were more uncomfortable than funny. It was smart to bury him. It might also, however, be fun to introduce him as something akin to The Next Karate Kid in Season Four, taking on the role of Hilary Swank’s character in a spiritual sense. It would be fitting, especially as the fourth installment of the series was the worst received of all the movies. If they choose to go that route, however, hopefully Griffin Santopietro can be remembered as fondly as Hilary Swank.
‘Cobra Kai’ Season Three is now streaming on Netflix.