“It’s a hallmark of this show to take these characters that you think you know and try to explain why they are the way they are and where they come from,” declares “Cobra Kai” co-creator Jon Hurwitz about one of the central premises of the show. “It felt very natural as to what would have happened and could have happened with the story,” adds Josh Heald, who alongside fellow co-creators Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg are now in post-production for the show’s highly anticipated fourth season. “It felt very natural that Daniel’s trajectory was going up, up, up, and Johnny’s was at a tipping point where it was starting to go down,” he says of the beloved characters at the center of the story. Watch our exclusive video interview with Hurwitz, Heald and Schlossberg above.
“Cobra Kai,” now in its third season, revisits old rivals Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) from the original 1984 Oscar-nominated classic “The Karate Kid.” The show picks up over thirty years after that iconic cinematic moment from the original film in which underdog LaRusso defeated bully Lawrence at the 1984 All Valley Under-18 Karate Championships Tournament. This time, the show is told from the perspective of down-and-out Johnny, who re-opens the Cobra Kai karate dojo, rekindling his old rivalry with Daniel, who himself has become a successful prestige car salesman, husband and father.
The series’ first two seasons follow Johnny and Daniel as they set up their own dojos, as Lawrence establishes the show’s namesake Cobra Kai while LaRusso leads Miyagi-do, named after his former sensei Mr Miyagi (played by the late Pat Morita from the original film). The teenager who each dojo are then inevitably drawn into the decades-long feud between Johnny and Daniel as they compete for All Valley karate supremacy.
The third season kicks off with Johnny’s karate prodigy Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) paralyzed and in recovery after falling off a balcony during his devastating fight with rival Robby (Tanner Buchanan), Johnny’s estranged son. Robby has turned his back on LaRusso, joining forces with the villainous Kreese (Martin Kove, reprising his role from the original film), Lawrence’s old sensei, who returned last season to take over the Cobra Kai dojo. A three-way feud ensues throughout the season, with old grudges culminating in an immensely satisfying season finale. Fans now await the show’s return for Season 4, which has recently wrapped shooting and is likely to premiere on Netflix later this year.
While “Cobra Kai” is action-packed, nostalgic and often very funny, it also explores themes that resonate on a deeper level. It’s about friendship, redemption and also about the plight of not only the underdog but also the bully, and it does so with a degree of sincerity that is refreshing in a time when irony and satire tend to dominate pop culture.
“What makes a bully? That theme is a big part of the show,” Schlossberg explains, adding that the show “allowed us to examine bullying in an interesting way. You’re usually going in through the eyes of the underdog, the kid getting bullied because that’s what draws you to the characters,” he says. “You know, later in life a lot of the time those guys that were the kings at high school are lost.”
The series flew somewhat under the radar when it ran on YouTube’s premium service for its first and second seasons in 2018 and 2019. But when YouTube decided to cease producing original scripted programming, Netflix picked it up. That wise decision saw the show’s first and second seasons become the most-watched series on the platform, while the third season further skyrocketed in popularity after it premiered in January 2021, cementing it as one of Netflix’s most popular original series. “Ralph Macchio has described it as having the successful off-Broadway play or musical that then is on Broadway and feels like that’s where it belonged the whole time,” Schlossberg smiles.
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