“December 19” builds to a phenomenally satisfying ending while also setting up an eagerly anticipated fourth season.
This recap of Cobra Kai season 3, episode 10, “December 19”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The finale of Cobra Kai season 3 begins in North Vietnam, 1969, with Kreese a POW, his captors making him and his comrades fight to the death on a platform above a pit. It’s an unusually bleak opener, but fittingly raises the stakes for this final (and quite excellent) installment.
In the present day, back at the party, we see Daniel run into Ali from his perspective this time, and Johnny join them. Ali quickly realizes this isn’t the first time they’ve seen each other since high school, which is quite an understatement.
Back at the LaRusso house, Sam’s pitch for a union is greatly aided by Demetri’s sincere plea. He makes the good point that they should all be on the same page given the circumstances. Boldy, Cobra Kai jumps the meeting, and we have our large-scale fight sequence for “December 19”, one that’s not as expansive as the school brawl from last season but is nonetheless impressively and at times creatively shot.
Of course, in some classic juxtaposition, we keep cutting away to the adults all getting along swimmingly: “Let’s all hope our kids are more involved than we were,” as we cut back to the fun brawl for a neat long, unbroken shot as Sam and Tory finally square off, fittingly in the dojo. Sam remains frozen while, back at the party, Ali essentially becomes a marriage counselor for Daniel and Johnny.
Sam finds her spirit and beats her fear when Tory smashes a photo of Mr. Miyagi, which is basically heresy in the context of this universe. In the other room, Cobra Kai is winning and Hawk has a crisis of conscience. We’ve been building to it all season, and here it finally arrives — Hawk’s face turn. He smashes up his friends and apologizes to Demetri, and together they beat down some more of Cobra Kai. Miguel is also able to find his feet and whoop Kyler. The boys interrupt Tory and Sam’s conflict and it’s suddenly over — at least for now.
It’s time, though, for Ali to leave, which means she and Johnny have to say their goodbyes. She asks him about Carmen and says that while she enjoyed reliving the past they can look now to the future, thus solidifying which relationship the show has picked for Johnny in the fourth season. It’s another very positive conversation and Johnny leaves it to find his future, intending to return home and confess his love to Carmen but instead finding Miguel all banged up.
It’s as good a time as any for another flashback to ‘Nam. The captain is the next fighter to be chosen and Kreese volunteers as his opponent, at which point the captain, banking on the advantage of psychological warfare, tells him of the contents of the letter he hid from him. Betsy died in a car crash. The captain taunts Kreese about this as the pit that the Americans are fighting over is revealed to be a snake pit.
Back in the present day, an enraged Johnny arrives at the Cobra Kai dojo, kicking in the door and finding Kreese training Robby. Kreese insists that three generations of Cobra Kai will “melt this whole snowflake generation”, but Johnny isn’t having that. He rejects Kreese’s offer and fights him, as flashbacks of Kreese fighting the captain in ‘Nam are interspersed. Johnny gets the upper hand and beats Kreese badly until Robby intervenes, trying to fight his father. Johnny tries not to retaliate but ends up accidentally smashing his head into a locker. In the flashback, we see Kreese beat his captain as in the present day he attacks Johnny with a sai. We go back and forth with the timelines; as U.S. forces raid the camp, Kreese elects to kill the captain rather than pull him to safety, while in the present-day Daniel saves Johnny and squares up to Kreese. The fight spills outside and Kreese tries to stab Daniel with a hefty shard of broken glass, so Daniel employs Chekhov’s — sorry, Miyagi’s — pressure points and disables Kreese. He and Johnny give each other the bro nod, and Sam stops Daniel from going too far. Kreese proposes they settle this the old fashioned way, in a tournament. Robby stays with Kreese while everyone else teams up — looks like we have our fourth season setup, folks. In a final flashback, we see one of Kreese’s comrades promise him lifelong loyalty, as in the present-day Kreese looks at his photo and gives him a call.
The final scene of “December 19” is magical, with both Eagle Fang and Miyagi-Do assembled, ready for training, as Daniel and Johnny both bow to them and each other.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.