“First Learn Stand” introduces a new character and presents some intriguing dynamics as training continues.
This recap of Cobra Kai season 4, episode 2, “First Learn Stand”, contains spoilers.
For all the other things it might be described as, what Cobra Kai is, at its core, is a coming-of-age drama. The Karate Kid was that too, so it only makes sense, even if Daniel and Johnny have both long since come of age themselves. Instead, we get to see their kids, surrogate and otherwise, grow up in their shadows, shaped at least in part by their ongoing rivalry and history. “First Learn Stand” begins by introducing a new character, a kid named Kenny who plays an online game called Dungeon Lord and dances while waiting for the school bus, and then introducing the kid who leads the charge in bullying him — Anthony LaRusso.
Cobra Kai season 4, episode 2 recap
Thus far, so much attention has been given to Sam LaRusso that it was easy to forget that Anthony even existed — as a matter of fact I didn’t recognize him at first, and just wrote him off as another generic school bully. But when the penny dropped it was a kick-yourself moment. Of course, with all the focus on Sam, Anthony would have grown up feeling resentful. Of course, he would rebel against his dad’s most essential tenets of tolerance, understanding, and respect. It only makes sense.
We don’t know much about Kenny. He’s alone a lot — his dad is in the army and his mom is always at work. Something “happened” to his brother; initially, we’re kept in the dark about it, but at the end of the episode we learn he’s in juvie. Kenny is more a useful narrative tool than an actual character at this stage. He’s an excuse for Anthony to embrace the worst aspects of himself, and later he becomes relevant in another way, though we’ll discuss that when we come to it. But he doesn’t have much value on his own terms. He’s a mirror for other characters and their issues.
He’s likable, though. You can see why the resident pretty girl, Lia, would be interested in him, why Anthony would be jealous of him, and how those two things might come together in a cruel prank. Anthony and his friends con Kenny into meeting with “Lia” in full Dungeon Lord cosplay, and when he retaliates to their abuse they beat him. This is a pretty direct mirror of the scene in the first film when Daniel is pursued by Johnny and the rest of Cobra Kai, who’re all dressed as skeletons. Here, the victim is in costume, but the attacker is the LaRusso. It’s a nice way for Cobra Kai to play on its own history.
Elsewhere, Johnny and Daniel continue to bicker and decide to teach each other their styles in order to foster respect and understanding, though it’s mostly played for laughs. It culminates in Johnny taking Daniel to a hockey game and antagonizing the players to try and get him into a fight. Eventually, Daniel loses his temper when the team insults Amanda, and he whoops all of them handily. Lesson learned I suppose — sometimes, striking first isn’t just necessary, but ideal.
Speaking of Amanda, she gets a subplot of her own in “First Learn Stand”, as she begins to strike up a somewhat unlikely relationship with Tory. It begins as a threat of prison if she doesn’t leave Sam alone, but when the encounter inadvertently gets Tory fired, she begins to feel remorseful. After Tory lashes out at the dojo and tells Kreese what happened, he, in turn, tells Amanda a little about Tory’s backstory, how she’s the sole provider for her family, and Amanda tries to make amends by leaving a basket of food on Tory’s doorstep. It’s a nice gesture, but it isn’t particularly well thought out, and Tory is offended by the pity. Despite her making a scene, though, it’s clear that there’s something interesting brewing between these two, and it’ll be fun to see how it develops going forwards.