Lo these many years, by which I mean since 1984, many have wondered about the answer to a simple question of history. It has echoed off the walls of canyons, burbled in the bubbles of mountain streams, and been shouted into the bottoms of volcanoes, only to be absorbed by hot lava and spit back out as igneous rock. The question: What if Johnny Lawrence hadn't said, "You're all right, LaRusso"?
Be cautioned that a couple of decades-old spoilers (yes, my fellow olds, it has been almost 34 years) follow: At the end of The Karate Kid, after Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) defeats Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) at the All-Valley Tournament, Johnny comes over to Daniel, a guy he's been bullying mercilessly for months, to personally hand him the trophy. "You're all right, LaRusso," he almost cries, so complete is his transformation into a bully who now understands the error of his ways and the evils of his sensei, John Kreese (Martin Kove). There has not been a reconciliation so meaningful since the last time Alec Baldwin and his Donald Trump impression got back together.
But what if it had never happened? What if Johnny had just nursed that grudge, becoming an angry young guy and then an angry, slightly-less-young guy, and then eventually an angry, middle-aged guy who never got over the humiliations he suffered in high school?
That is the question that begins the YouTube Red 10-part Karate Kid sequel series Cobra Kai, which sounded like such a bad idea when it was first announced that the only way to really be fair to it and also fair about my expectations for it is to say that it is surprisingly — maybe shockingly — not terrible.