Cobra Kai - Season 2

Both William and Macchio are actors.

Steve Dietl/YouTube/Sony Pictures Television

The first week of the fifth season's availability on the platform for 202.25 million hours was watched by 95.55 million people. The show has stretched its premise, pitting the now-adult stars of The Karate Kid against each other as their midlife crisis rivalry escalates to an entire Southern California community. Every major conflict is resolved, except for a small last-minute cliffhanger. I am hopeful that if there is a sixth and final season, it will correct a core issue that has plagued the series since it became a property of the streaming service. The show started out as a sequel to Force Awakens, but could end up being Rise of Skywalker-esque.

Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso were the focus of the show at one point. The working class kid was a successful car dealership owner while the child of privilege was on the outs. The dojo was reopened by Lawrence. The choice entangled their children and an outsider who was taken under Johnny's wing, as well as their own children. Johnny was set up as the new Karate Kid in order for him to find redemption and romance with his single mother. The legacy sequel format and the franchise vets were used to highlight a new hero from an underrepresented demographic.

The second season ended with a school-wide martial arts brawl due to the interference of Martin Groove's John Kreese. The franchise vets were more important than the kids in the next few years. In the third season, Daniel went to Japan to interact with characters from The Karate Kid part II, while Elizabeth Shue made an appearance. The fourth season centered on the return of Terry Silver. The fifth season saw Chozen Toguchi recruited to help the good guys. The young protagonists were pushed out of the spotlight in favor of the grown ups.

The dramedy is still enjoyable. It is still a platonic ideal of what we would want from a sequel. It works for fans of the 1980's coming-of-age trilogy and younger people who want to watch a soap opera. The apparent main character of the story has become a supporting character. A real-time example of how the legacy sequels have evolved over the last several years can be found in the show. They used to be a type of horse.

The Force Awakens

The force of nature.

Walt Disney

The sequel to Return of the Jedi was called Force Awakens. It was still about Rey, John Boyega, Finn, and Oscar Isaac meeting up and taking down the New Order. Creed was a sequel that focused on Michael B. Jordan's Creed. Audiences of all ages showed up to the movie because they liked the movie and because they liked the hook: the park is open and things go to hell. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a new high-concept comedy that was a loose sequel to Jumanji.

Independence Day: Resurgence flopped in 2016 due to the fact that it undermined the new stars and instead relied on returning vets. It was a Force Awakens-style legacy sequel, just as it was after the Star Trek remake. The new cast members were left out in favor of Linda Hamilton and Arnold. The Fantastic Beasts franchise went from $814 million to $660 million to $400 million because it failed to solidify its new cast as fan favorites.

Men in Black: International and Cars 3 caused a change in how legacy sequels were constructed because of their complicated reception. The backlash to the Ghostbusters remake created a narrative that the movie was a flop because it ignored the fans and wasn't a true Ghostbusters sequel. It made sense that The Last Jedi went further into the 'Star Wars is for today' mentality. It was met with an online backlash that made it appear that Episode VIII was disliked by fans and general audience.


Tom Cruise is in a movie called Top Gun: Maverick.

Paramount Pictures

What a legacy sequel is now…

What happened next is known. Lucasfilm and/or Disney retooled The Rise of Skywalker into a film that retconned The Last Jedi's plot twists and prioritized adult Star Wars characters. It earned a B+ Cinemascore grade, which is not great for a Star Wars movie, and only $515 million domestically and $1 billion worldwide. The feelings of the older fans of the franchise were prioritized over the younger ones. New, more inclusive heroes were secondary to the original stars.

Being Egon Spengler's granddaughter was important to Ghostbusters: Afterlife's young Phoebe Spengler. The retired Ghostbusters helped save the day. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence were the subject of Bad Boys For Life. The final girl of the Halloween trilogy was Laurie Strode. The cast needed help from the park's cast. The exception to the rule is Scream, which killed off David Arquette. The movie Top Gun was about how only Tom Cruise could save the day.

The post- Last Jedi legacy sequels were written by Top Gun 2. It may have been a factor in its success. Franchise vets were the only ones who could save the day according to the next wave of legacy sequels. The original fans were designated as the most critical fans for properties from when they were children. The third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation is morphing into an eighth season of the show. Adult fans demand that Hollywood continue to cater to their kid-era interests, while some whine on social media if these old properties look more diverse than they did in the past.


Spider-Man is in a movie called Spider-Man: No Way Home.

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Pop culture reassures adults that their heroes are still the best.

We are seeing a lot of films and shows that remind people how much they liked Hocus Pocus and The Mighty Ducks while reassuring them that those properties were good. Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi are the two most popular Star Wars shows at the moment. The original trilogy has become a focal point for Star Wars continuity. The House of the Dragons and The Rings of Power are the most popular shows on streaming. The streaming wars allowed theatrical to lose its foothold to streaming in the first place.

Remember when pop culture nostalgia wasn't the primary hook for your big budget franchise tentpoles? Spider-Man: No Way Home was the highest grossing movie of all time, partly due to nostalgia from the Spider-Man trilogy. The latter was so bad that Sony ended up sharing it with Disney. DC Films is taking action. The return of Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman 31 years after Batman Returns is one of the key hooks of the long-gestating TheFlash. Nostalgia wasn't enough to save Batgirl, which featured batman as Wayne and Brendan Fraser as Firefly

Cobra Kai is still a good show, and the kids < adults imbalance isn’t a pass/fail scenario. However, its evolution (devolution?) has lined up almost perfectly within the broader pop culture. The Force Awakens at least used the comforting nostalgia and IP-specific security to introduce new protagonists who, being played by ‘not a white guy’ actors, shattered the notions of who could headline a global blockbuster and anchor billion-dollar IP. We may now be doomed to not just regurgitate IP but to explicitely center old franchise vets returning to battle and assuring fans that they are still the most special. We may soon be nostalgic for the Force Awakens-style legacy sequel as Rise of Skywalker clones flood theaters and streaming platforms. In the meantime, let’s hope Cobra Kai season six returns Miguel Diaz to the center stage.