Season 4 of the incredibly successful Cobra Kai series on Netflix (released Dec. 31 at 12:00 a.m. PT/3:00 a.m. ET), a continuation of the popular Karate Kid movies, brings us right back to the iconic All Valley Tournament that closed off the first film, featuring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka.
“Billy and I spoke about that when we were at the tournament, it feels very Karate Kid to be at a tournament,” Macchio told Yahoo Canada. “We had it in Season 1 of Cobra Kai…but the stakes are higher, everything's bigger, there's a lot on the line, and the martial arts is of an even higher level.”
“We have the great montage, the tournament montage, which is very much part of the Karate Kid fabric… It was very nostalgic and just a bigger and higher, [a] more intense level, based on the story that has been brought forth in the Cobra Kai series.”
Zabka added that when the cast walked into the room for tournament in Season 4, with the walls lined with posters and people in the stands, he felt that sense of “this is where it all started.”
“This is what it's all about, and here we go again,” he said. “It feels familiar, it's an exciting kind of adrenaline rush.”
The return of Terry Silver and a Daniel LaRusso-Johnny Lawrence alliance
At the end of Season 3, we saw Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence join forces, with their Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang dojos coming together in an attempt to take down Cobra Kai, under the instruction of John Kreese (Martin Kove).
While this may seem like an unfair advantage for the combined Miyagi-Do/Eagle Fang crew, Kreese has a trick up his sleeve, bringing back the nasty antagonist Terry Silver, played by Thomas Ian Griffith, who is really the best part (some may saying the only good part) of the movie The Karate Kid Part III.
“In Season 4, you're going to get to see who that character is after Karate Kid III and there's a lot of decisions that we've made, a lot of head scratching and a lot of soul searching with, how do we reconcile who this character is now in the best possible way," Cobra Kai co-creator Josh Heald told Yahoo Canada.
Fellow co-creator Jon Hurwitz described The Karate Kid Part III as “far fetched” and “kind of crazy” but Hurwitz, Heald and third Cobra Kai co-creator Hayden Schlossberg always found the Terry Silver character “scary as hell,” making him an exciting addition to the show.
“In the original he's this archetypal, two-dimensional character that's just driven with this glee and this energy,” actor Griffith told Yahoo Canada.
“To be able to answer so many questions of why was he the way he was, what has he been doing for the last 30 years? Where is he now?...They just went down every avenue you could possibly imagine and then brought this character together.”
Griffith also praised the talents of the younger cast members on the show, indicating that bridging the gap between younger and older generations is one aspect of why Cobra Kai is so successful.
Younger 'Cobra Kai' cast mirroring Ralph Macchio, William Zabka's relationship
For Xolo Maridueña who plays Miguel Diaz, it was particularly exciting for him to be able to actually work with Ralph Macchio, now that Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang have joined forces.
“I never really got to work with Ralph, there were a few moments in passing that we got to hang out with each other,” Maridueña said.
“I will say [Ralph Macchio and William Zabka] really do both bring different energies to the table and how they present themselves, and their process, and I think it's really cool to just kind of be a fly on the wall and listen in on what their styles are.”
Maridueña added that Macchio and Zabka have “great banter” and “poke fun” at each other on set, which is reminiscent of Maridueña's relationship with Gianni DeCenzo, who plays Demetri, and Jacob Bertrand, who plays Eli “Hawk.”
For DeCenzo, playing Demetri has given him a chance to take on a character that has an evolution, from being pushed around to really leaning into his physical and mental strength, and of course, DeCenzo was particularly excited to have more on-screen kiss moments in Season 4.
Demetri also plays a significant role in Eli “Hawk” trying to mend all the bridges he’s burned in the previous seasons of Cobra Kai, whose tough, bully facade starts to diminish.
“He's got a lot of stuff to sort through and kind of just smooth out a lot of relationships,” Bertrand said. “He burned a lot of bridges and has to repair that stuff, and I think as he learns…talk is cheap.”
More drama, more action and more heart for 'Cobra Kai' characters'
Season 4 marks a significant time of development for a lot of the teen characters individually, but even more so, their relationships with each other.
For Tanner Buchanan who plays Johnny’s son Robby, whose tumultuous relationship with his father continues in Season 4 as he continues his karate journey with Cobra Kai, in addition to tensions between him and Daniel’s daughter Samantha (Mary Mouser) and Miguel. Buchanan describes his character as “loving the drama.”
“Robby…just loves the drama, he's just in it now, but I guess it was hard to navigate, in a sense, because I guess when you look at it, ultimately, deep down, Robby is a good person, he wants to be a good person, he wants to succeed in life and he's trying to figure out which path to take,” the actor told Yahoo Canada.
One thing that is nice to see in Cobra Kai is the physical work is definitely not just left to the male cast members. Mary Mouser calls Season 4 the “pinnacle” of physical work for her character Samantha, so far.
“I was training six days a week, minimum two hours a day and sometimes we'd squeeze in even more, so it was very intensive but has completely changed my outlook on my life has now an actor who can do martial arts, and not just an actor who got handed a couple of stunts here and there,” Mouser told Yahoo Canada.
“I think I would have jumped into karate a whole lot sooner in my life if I had seen somebody who looked like me and acted like me, and maybe had a similar story, and also kicked butt.”
As the cast and crew of Cobra Kai are now working on Season 5, one area where we hope to see more explored in this story is with Peyton List’s character Tory.
In Season 4, we learn a lot more about Tory's backstory, her family life, and how that links to her aggression. The season ends with a lot of room to explore that complexity in the future and Tory is definitely the character that Cobra Kai viewers will be particularly invested in.
“I even had someone recently come up, they’re a teacher aide at a high school, and she said that she meets a lot of girls that are in similar situations to Tory, or that are like Tory, and think that there's no way out,” List said.
“She was like, it's nice to see that arc and then see that portrayed on screen, so that really meant a lot to me.”