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Cobra Kai Characters Ranked

Ranking the characters of one of the best shows around right now, ahead of the Season 4 premiere early next year. (List is leads and main students only, so no Mrs LaRusso or any of the background students or minor characters.)
12Cobra Kai
Complete Recordings


12. Samantha LaRusso
One of the very worst characters in modern serialised television. With a smiley, peppy nice-girl attitude masking a truly repulsive core, this petty, enabling, shallow and self-righteous wretch misses no opportunity to play the men in her life against each other, actively encouraging (and even LEADING) nearly every single act of violence, then turning on the crocodile waterworks and acting like she is the emotional victim of the situation SHE caused, and like Miguel, Robby and/or her father are at fault for acting on what SHE led them to think were her wishes. She is the worst kind of manipulative, pretending to be a flawless angel of innocence while being arguably worse than her rival (the supposed heel) who at least has the courage to show her true character, convictions and motives right from the off. Fuck this character, and not in a good way.
11Cobra Kai
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11. Tory
If Cobra Kai has one flaw, it is its portrayal of female characters – or at least, LEADING female characters. Sam LaRusso is by far the worst out of the two, but Tory – a late addition to the cast, blatantly to be an antagonist for Sam – is not much better, being the sort of tough-troubled-girl stereotype which, in 2021, is at least ten years out of date. Tory's brash, jumping-to-conclusions, flippy-floppy attitude, coupled with some of the worst dialogue in the entire series, place what was clearly meant to be the female Hawk at the opposite end of the list from her counterpart, and sadly leave Cobra Kai 0-for-2 in the strong female character department.
10Cobra Kai
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10. Robby
The character clearly designed to be the heartthrob of the series – right down to the Dawson's Creek hair and rebellious attitude hiding a heart of gold – instead comes across as an insufferable, wishy-washy brat, every bit as bad as his eventual girlfriend when it comes to flipping alliances on a dime, for shallow and often selfish reasons, then rationalising his actions so he never comes across as the bad guy – which, of course, is only true in his own mind, and that of his enabling waste of oxygen of a girlfriend. The opposite of his father in that he had everything to be an at least mildly likeable character, and instead ranks as one of the most hateful in the series.
9Cobra Kai
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9. Daniel LaRusso
Cobra Kai's main strenght, at least initially, is its ability to flip the viewer's allegiances brought over from Karate Kid, and make them root for who used to be the bad guy – and a large part of this comes down to Ralph Macchio's insufferably smug, petty and vindictive portrayal of the adult Daniel LaRusso. The incredibly likeable 'Daniel-San' from the original trilogy is shown to be an overgrown child who, for all his airs and graces of sophisticated bonhomie, is ultimately unable to let go of events from his high-school days, even three decades after the fact. The fact that he only gets worse as the show progresses – while Johnny becomes more and more justified in his actions – is a testament to the writing and acting on the show.
8Cobra Kai
Complete Recordings


8.John Kreese
Out of the characters brought over from the original Karate Kid series, Kreese is the one who has changed the least. Like Daniel, he remains stuck in what was his peak period, refusing to acknowledge the changing times or even alter his mentality to reflect ageing and growth. And while he remains persuasive enough to almost sway Johnny back over to his way of seeing things (and teaching karate), his ultimate rejection by his star student, biggest admirer and surrogate son feels like not only a triumph for Johnny, but a deserved come-uppance for his refusal to change his heelish ways.
7Cobra Kai
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7. Aisha
Not a bad character by any means, but she is never anything more than simply 'there', not experiencing any major individual character growth. The fact that she is not missed once she exits the series in Season 3 – and that her replacements rank above her on this list – truly does say it all. Still, she is at least useful in separating the likeable characters from the unlikeable ones.
6Cobra Kai
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6. Stingray
Initially a forced comedic character, Stingray eventually wins the viewer over by being allowed to let the humour come from his personality, rather than the forced quips from his first appearance. His character – a thirtysomething retail-job lifer with the mindset of a nerdy teenager, and who feels most comfortable among people in that demographic – could easily have come across as creepy, but is instead portrayed as likeable and amusing thanks to – again – a great acting job from his actor.
5Cobra Kai
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5. Chris and Mitch
The most noteworthy of the supporting Cobra Kai students, they do not have enough solo moments to justify being split into two entries. Still, as a comedy duo, they work beautifully every time they are given material, with 'Assface' in particular being the vehicle for some great laughs and touching character moments.
4Cobra Kai
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4. Demetri
While some of his eventual success feels a little forced (him bagging the rich girl, in particular, is wish fulfillment at its best) his role as the Neville Longbottom of the series is well-realised enough that any over-the-top moments end up being forgivable. Plus, three seasons in, he remains an average fighter, at best, which is not only refreshing, but realistic; he may have landed one kick on Hawk, but like Hawk himself tells him, one kick does not make a fighter - and Demetri is not yet at the physical or mental level to be anything more than the mediocre karateka he is.
3Cobra Kai
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3. Miguel
Out of the main characters, Miguel is the one whose character stays the most consistent throughout the shows. While he sometimes wavers in his allegiances, he is justified every time it happens (unlike either member of the leading couple) and never reneges on his main bond with Johnny. The opposite of Hawk in that he deserves to succeed, and remains lovable even at his worst.
2Cobra Kai
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2. Johnny
Cobra Kai's main triumph is turning the bully from the original films into a relatable character the audience wants to root for. Like Miguel, Johnny stays true to his character all throughout the show, while also notably and visibly progressing as a person and as a karate teacher, to the point where he becomes deserving of the very best of luck with his dojo, and in his life in general.
1Cobra Kai
Complete Recordings


1. Hawk
By far the best-developed character in this series. His transition from quiet, glowering nerd with a bad haircut and a worse sweater to loud, glowering ultra-heel with a bad haircut and a slightly better sweater is the kind of character arc that makes a show worth watching. One of the best love-to-hate characters since Prince Zuko in Avatar – and unlike Zuko, he is not due a redemptive moment anytime soon, nor does he deserve one.
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