REVIEW – Cobra Kai Season 2 Episode 2 – “Back In Black”


John Kreese appears to be sticking around, it's Day 1 at Miyagi Do Karate and somebody has a new car.  Now that we have seen the fallout from the Season 1 finale, Episode 2 gets down to the business of the two dojos.  Let's find out who is "Back In Black".

I won't go in to every little detail, but I loved how this episode started.  You have both Johnny and Miguel starting their day with very different morning routines.  When they come out, it's a fist bump and a ride is a sweet, custom Cobra Kai muscle car.  I'm not much of a car guy, but the customization of this ride was pretty sweet.  From the black and yellow, to the cobra on the grill, this is what winners drive.  This good natured vibe wouldn't last very long and it was the first sign of the John Kreese influence now that Johnny has introduced him to the class.

When Miguel is warming up the students at the start of class, they are goofing off a bit.  I mean, they're still kids, so this is to be expected.  Johnny is clearly embarrassed by Kreese's reaction to this and lashes out at them.  He takes it even one more step further by telling them that they would need to meet him tomorrow at a specific location at 5am.  Kreese clearly thinks that Johnny has a bunch of cream puffs, and he doesn't seem at all impressed by Miguel.  There are a few new students as well.  Their biggest role was in indirect one, as we see how Hawk treats them versus the way Miguel treats them.  There is clearly still a lot of good in Miguel, and we get to see that a few times just in this episode alone.  I'll talk about their punishment in just a moment.

On the flip side, you have Daniel very excited to get started with Miyagi Do.  Robbie and Sam seem as well, at first.  When Daniel tries to teach them their first lesson, let's just say it doesn't go very well.  They're not sure why they are doing what they are doing and they already appear to be questioning his methods.  Daniel just can't seem to get through to them, and actually ends up having to bail on the first class for a work emergency.  I will say that this did seem a bit out of character for both Robbie and Sam.  Especially for Robbie, who definitely has a lot of respect and faith in Daniel.  It's especially odd because he has already trained with Daniel, as did Sam when she was younger, and it certainly led Robbie to success.  I realize that the story is about Daniel living up to Mr. Miyagi as a teacher, but it seems like there could have been a better way to go about it.  It's actually Daniel's wife that puts him back on the right path.  This happens after they have to team up to sell a bunch of cars in one day, and he gets an idea that he thinks will help him with his lesson.  The salesman team-up scene was fun, but again, I felt like this is time that could have been better spent.

One deviation from the main story that worked was the spotlight on just how horrible Robbie's home life is.  His mom is never there, and when she is, she's popping in with a new guy and leaving pretty quickly.  She leaves Robbie again, and the poor guy has no food and the lights go out in his first night.  If this was happening to you, chances are your focus wouldn't necessarily be on point either.  You might even be a little bit cranky.  Combine that with the conversation that he had with his dad when they saw each other in the last episode, and you understand where Robbie is coming from.  We do see him confide in Sam a bit, and of course, she tells her dad that she thinks something is up.  Ultimately, Daniel takes Robbie in, and as you can imagine, that is going to lead to something quite awkward.  More on that in a second.

Back to our Cobra Kai kids, Johnny is putting them through some manual labor before the real test arrives.  Having them climb in a cement mixer and have to manually get it working was pretty hardcore.  It also shows that, these students will follow Miguel's lead.  We always think about the respect that they have for Johnny, but it's understated how much respect they have for Miguel as well.  There is also a good friendship there, as they try to help him through his break-up with Sam earlier in the episode.  As far as Kreese goes, he finally lets the students know that he was Johnny's sensei.  No one reacts to this more than Hawk, which I think will definitely play a role later on.  The respect isn't quite there with the rest of the students.  I'm not sure they really fear him yet either.  It looks like he  motivates them to listen to Johnny, but I can't help but feel that they would have come around anyway.  Johnny clearly had a trick up his sleeve with this cement mixer though, you could see it in his eyes.  It may have been dangerous, but it did the trick, and seemed to re-focus his group.

I want to jump ahead to the end now, which was like tossing gasoline onto the fire.  Daniel is going to Cobra Kai to talk to Johnny about Robbie staying with them.  When he sees Kreese with Johnny, the mood changes very quickly.  Even though Johnny doesn't present Kreese as an ally, that's how Daniel takes it.  A few clever barbs later, and Daniel walks off without a word about Robbie.  Just as I had feared, Kreese definitely seems to be playing the devil on Johnny's shoulder, for lack of a better way to put it.  It's very subtle, but I'm not even sure Johnny realizes how well the manipulation is working.  Only time will tell if Johnny is smart enough not to fall into the same trap that he did all of those years ago.

It was going to be hard for this episode to top, or even be on par with the Season 2 premiere.  It definitely drives the story forward, and presents us with a couple of things.  The first is unity between the students and their respective teachers.  At least we think so anyway, because Miguel now knows that Robbie is Johnny's son.  This episode also gives us that catalyst that is going to be the start of the dojo wars.  That moment at the end of this episode is what clearly starts the whole thing.  As a fan, this is the point where you have probably chosen a side, if you didn't already do that last season.  To me this really seems like we are at a point of no return, and these two entities cannot co-exist.  How this effects things between Sam and her friends, Robbie and his dad, etc. will be one of the more interesting storylines that I think will see start to play out in the next few episodes.

What did you think of "Back In Black"?