There are many parallels that fans have found over time between Cobra Kai and the Karate Kid films. So, I thought, why not talk about their latest reboot? With the introduction of new student Kenny Payne (played by Dallas Dupree Young), the writers have made the season 4 storyline quite a compelling one.
First introduced in season 4, episode 2, titled “First Learn Stand,” Kenny Payne is an awkward, insecure teenager and middle-school student. His father is absent and his older brother had been serving his time in juvie.
Kenny’s character seems to be quite similar to Daniel LaRusso from The Karate Kid. Both Daniel and Kenny fit the underdog subjected to bullying trope quite well, which, if you ask me, is great considering the dominant theme of Cobra Kai is that of the underdogs.
I have put together everything we know about Kenny’s journey in Cobra Kai as of now so if you’ve already finished binge watching season 4, you’re at the right place!
Who Is The New Kid In Cobra Kai ?
The new kid who has been grabbing eyeballs since season 4 premiered on Netflix is Kenny Payne, a young middle-schooler who is being portrayed as a dark horse in the series. Once Kenny makes his first appearance, he is immediately targeted by the school bullies.
And guess what? If the connection was not more clear, the bully is Daniel LaRusso’s own son, Anthony LaRusso. The storyline revolving around Kenny progresses like most underdogs we are used to seeing – he gets bullied, abused and tormented by others and also catfished online.
After being frustrated of everything, he decides to join Cobra Kai. Enter Robby Keene – or should I say Mr Miyagi from Karate Kid with a twist? Slowly, Kenny learns how to fight back and also fights back his abusers.
In the season 4 finale, Kenny finally defeats and destroys Anthony and threatens to destroy him further both physically and mentally when they go to West Valley High next fall. Kenny’ development throughout the series has been pretty predictable, especially when his character growth mimics that of Daniel LaRusso from The Karate Kid quite closely.
Which Dojo Does Kenny Join?
Kenny joins the ‘bad’ dojo of Cobra Kai. After being bullied constantly by Anthony and gang both physically and mentally, Kenny is compelled to join Cobra Kai to gain his confidence and embrace his dark side.
In Cobra Kai, he meets Robby Keene who becomes like his mentor and guide. Keene himself is not alien to the feeling of holding bitter memories in his heart and wishing for revenge so he was the perfect man to understand Kenny’s situation.
Kenny’s experiences in school urged him to grow stronger and he definitely did not mind taking the dark route which we even see Robby dreading.
Is Kenny’s Story A Reboot of The Karate Kid?
If you ask me, then yes. Kenny Payne is like a mirror image of Daniel LaRusso. His growth over the course of season 4 is reminiscent of Daniel LaRusso’s growth in The Karate Kid. Let me explain how.
First of all, the main theme which is central to The Karate Kid and Cobra Kai is the rise of the underdogs. In The Karate Kid, Daniel LaRusso was bullied by Cobra Kai after he moved to San Fernando Valley, where karate had a pretty dominant place.
Soon, Daniel became a victim to Cobra Kai’s influence and gang mentality until he was rescued by Mr Miyagi. In Cobra Kai, Kenny is also subjected to similar kind of bullying until he joins Cobra Kai and is mentored by Robby Keene.
In the end of The Karate Kid, Daniel was able to finally beat his rival Johnny in the 1984’s All Valley just as Kenny defeats Anthony in the season 4 finale of Cobra Kai. The formula of the underdog has always been similar and both Kenny and Daniel go through similar arcs.
In fact, Robby Keene’s character is also a reboot of Mr Miyagi, the man behind Daniel’s growth and success. So, Kenny Payne is definitely a mirror image of Daniel LaRusso.
However, there’s another important aspect to this similarity. While Daniel remains more or less the hero figure in The Karate Kid films, Kenny’s character does have some grey shades to it. He joined the dojo of Cobra Kai which is what aggravated his aggressive tendencies.
It is definitely pleasing to the viewers and somewhat justified in Kenny’s part to want revenge after the way he was abused and bullied by Anthony and his gang. But in the midst of wanting to exact revenge, Kenny loses himself into a dark path which even Robby realizes.
He achieves success by defeating Anthony with the help of his dark side, which I don’t think we can ignore. Nevertheless, Kenny is a character with many layers to him and hopefully we will get to see more of these layers in upcoming seasons.
About Cobra Kai
Cobra Kai is an action drama that is a reboot/sequel of The Karate Kid movies. It premiered on YouTube in 2018, and subsequently moved to Netflix. The series stars Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan, Courtney Henggeler and Mary Mouser.
When Johnny Lawrence opens the Cobra Kai dojo to teach his bullied teenage neighbor, Miguel, how to defend himself, his age-old rivalry with Daniel LaRusso is ignited once more. Will their rivalry continue to affect their present lives and those they love, or will they be able to bury the past?