Warning: FULL SPOILERS follow for Cobra Kai Season 4.
The winner of the 51st All Valley Karate Tournament has been declared… but the fight for the valley is not over yet.
With Cobra Kai Season 4 now streaming on Netflix, I spoke to the show’s creators and Executive Producers, Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, & Hayden Schlossberg, for a spoiler-packed conversation about some of the big turn of events that occurred this season and in the finale and how it set the stage for Season 5, which has already completed production.
Read on for what the trio had to say about where they left things, Daniel LaRusso’s next step, what the future might hold for Cobra Kai as an organization, and if we’re seeing some surprising redemption for John Kreese.
Plus, we talk about the lingering question of Julie Pierce and if we ever might see the Next Karate Kid again…
One last Cobra Kai Season 4 SPOILER WARNING! We mean it!
THE CHOZEN ONE
Season 4’s final moments found Daniel (Ralph Macchio) declaring he did not intend to go through with his side of the agreement he and Johnny had made with Kreese to shut down both Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang, should Cobra Kai win the All Valley, along with the reveal that he’d also brought in someone to help him against Cobra Kai – his old foe, The Karate Kid Part II’s Chozen (Yuji Okumoto), who he reconciled with in Season 3.
Regarding what exactly Daniel is planning next, with no tournament on the immediate horizon, the EPs remained tightlipped – nor would they give any hints to what exactly is in that scroll Chozen gave Daniel in Season 3, though it sure feels highly likely we’ll find out next season.
Said Hayden Schlossberg, “I think the fun thing about Season 5 is you get to see what would have happened in Karate Kid III had Terry Silver won. You’re really seeing a Terry Silver unleashed and in charge and in some ways more dangerous, because he has 30 years of wisdom and waiting for this moment.”
As for Daniel bringing in Chozen, Schlossberg explained, “It makes sense that Daniel is going to have to go to great lengths to kind of take back the valley and he happens to know somebody who is a karate master himself that is on his side but also was willing to fight to the death in the past.” He described Season 5 as ‘All the Karate Avengers are getting together right now and getting ready for something… We don’t know what it’s going to be, we don’t know how it’s going to go. But we know that the stakes are high and things have never been worse and actions need to be taken.”
On top of that, Schlossberg said, “We love the idea that Daniel, through the course of Season 4, kind of learns to respect the need for going on offense every now and then. That’s what he’s planning to do with Chozen and we’ll see how that plays out.”
MERCY IS FOR THE KREESE?
John Kreese has essentially become Cobra Kai’s main villain since he came back into the show in Season 2 but Season 4 made things trickier in the power dynamic at Cobra Kai itself with Terry Silver’s return. The final scenes of the season found Kreese making an uncharacteristic decision when he told Tory to fight how she wished to rather than his usual win at any cost approach (and going against Silver’s order for her to purposely blind Sam with another elbow to the eye) – only for Kreese himself to be betrayed by Silver, who had him framed and arrested for assaulting Stingray (Paul Walter Hauser).
So are we seeing a redemption arc of sorts for John Kreese? The EPs said perhaps to a point… though we’ll see how far it truly goes.
Said Jon Hurwitz, “We felt like it was really interesting to have this kind of dual snake in the center of the dojo in Season 4 and the push and pull between the two of them. Where we leave things, we do have a little bit of a soft redemption for Kreese there. He has that Johnny moment in Karate Kid all over again. He has that sensei next to him and looks at him and looks at Johnny across the mat and makes a different decision this time. And it turns out well and it’s a good thing and Cobra Kai is riding high, so for him to have Terry Silver kind of take him down in a surprising way, how will Kreese respond to that? That’s a big question [in Season 5]. Will it bring out greater anger in him and greater darkness? Will it cause him to reflect in other kinds of ways? It could go in any potential direction with him, but we have shown that Kreese has the potential to change his ways, at least in very slight ways.”
ROBBY AND TORY’S NEXT STEP
With the likes of Miguel and Hawk having left the dojo, Tory (Peyton List) and Robby (Tanner Buchanan) essentially functioned as the main faces among the Cobra Kai students in Season 4, but in the finale, both had some big moments that perhaps could change things going forward. For Tory, it was having her huge victory in the All Valley soured by the discovery that Terry had paid off the ref, which is likely why she was never penalized for her accidental elbow to Sam‘s eye. Robby meanwhile both has to face the darker side of the strength he’s helped Kenny find in Cobra Kai and then had a very meaningful conversation with his father, Johnny, indicating perhaps they are on the road to a true reconciliation.
So do Tory and Robby still see their future with Cobra Kai? Replied Josh Heald, “It’s an interesting pivot point for both of their characters. It was important for us to give Tory this ultimate victory. It’s the ultimate payoff. You’ve been a foot soldier for this dark karate organization, you bought in wholly and completely, you’ve paid the price at times, but you’ve dug in and you’ve gone further and now she’s come out the other side. She’s an All Valley champion! But she gets a peek behind the curtain as to what, in this latest iteration of Cobra Kai, makes it tick. And even though she didn’t have a ‘Sweep the leg’ moment with Kreese, she still sees that her other sensei is willing to be duplicitous and do things in a way that is equally unsavory.”
As for Robby, Heald said, “It’s more of the the tonnage of watching the slow burn of what Cobra Kai does to somebody else. He wasn’t able to see it happening to himself. It caused him to have to step outside himself and see how it actually damages somebody who was important to him [with Kenny] to fully appreciate what everyone else sees. We wanted to land both of those moments, exactly the way they are, at the end of Season 4, to present opportunities for what happens next. Is it a full reconciliation with Johnny? Is this the moment that Tory turns her back on Cobra Kai? Or does she dig in further? We want to have some of those itches still left to scratch that will be answered in Season 5.”
DOES COBRA KAI REALLY NEVER DIE?
This show is called Cobra Kai and it began with Johnny Lawrence reopening the dojo, as the series went on to quite successfully redeem The Karate Kid‘s bully and villain. But as time has gone on, Cobra Kai itself has grown even more corrupt, leading to so many – including Johnny himself – leaving them behind, while the leadership has gotten continually worse, first with Kreese, and now with Silver in charge.
When I spoke to William Zabka recently, he remarked, “Johnny accidentally opened up Pandora’s box here by opening Cobra Kai. He should have named it something else and he could have avoided this whole mess!”
So can Cobra Kai itself be redeemed or is it a group that is innately corrupt?
Schlossberg said the answer was complicated, which they loved, remarking, “I think there’s something awesome about Cobra Kai but also something dangerous about Cobra Kai. I think it’s always going to have those qualities about it. The gis are really cool, the snake logo is badass…” But beyond the superficial appeal, he added, “It is a technique and a philosophy that if you adopt it, and you drink the Kool Aid, you’re going to get stronger and you’re not going to have fear anymore. And for a kid that’s going through trouble, it’s very enticing.”
There is a bit of a Star Wars element to it all, Schlossberg noted, saying, “It’s the dark side of karate, and you get powers that come with it, but there’s the cost of it as well. We try on the show to not just make it where it’s, ‘Oh, they’re just evil and that’s what it is.’ No, there is something that you get out of it and there’s something fun about being in Cobra Kai. But at the same time, if you drink too much of the Kool-Aid, you end up dead! Maybe it needs to just be watered down Kool-Aid a little bit, or maybe just a smaller dose of Kool-Aid. We’ll see where it all goes. But definitely, there’s something that we like about Cobra Kai, which is why we made the show and from the very beginning showed what we thought were the positive aspects of that kind of philosophy. Striking first, that’s sometimes the wrong thing, but occasionally may be the right thing and even [asking] is showing mercy always the right decision in life? We try to give Cobra Kai its fair trial, but at the same time, they’re the bad guys. But it’s fun to be bad guys!”
A DIFFERENT KIND OF BULLY
Bullying has been a big aspect of the entire Karate Kid franchise, going back to the first film with Daniel’s treatment by Johnny and his friends, and continuing in Cobra Kai. Season 4 put that aspect front and center in a notably way with the storyline about Anthony LaRusso (Griffin Santopietro) and newcomer Kenny (Dallas Dupree Young).
A bit more present in Season 1, Anthony had been joked about by some fans for how off-screen he’d mostly become in Season 2 and 3, but he had a big storyline in Season 4, as we found out Daniel LaRusso’s son had essentially become the kind of bully that once tormented his father, with Kenny becoming the target of Anthony and his friends – which in turn leads Kenny to Cobra Kai, even as Anthony begins to regret his actions.
Heald explained they liked being able to put the spotlight on Anthony in this manner, saying, “Anthony’s been hiding in plain sight since Season 1 as a character, who – unintentionally, despite the good parenting of Daniel and Amanda – is growing up with a very different experience than Daniel did. Daniel grew up frugally, in a scrappy way, with a single mother and was forced to find his way and be a little bit more present. Whereas, Anthony grows up with a lot more luxuries that are not just limited to the rich kids of the valley anymore. So many kids now have a litany of devices and escapes and things that give them ways of not going outside and playing and riding their bikes and having those types of healthy social interactions. The idea was that Anthony would slowly fall in with a group of people who might be doing some cyber bullying, but that they wouldn’t even identify it as such; they’re just middle schoolers joking around and he very easily slips into this peer pressure type of relationship where he becomes a bully. It felt very natural to explore what that means and what that impact would be like for Daniel and what that different type of coming of age story is in the LaRusso household.”
As for Kenny and his path to Cobra Kai, Heald said, “On the flip side, you have Kenny, this kid who’s just pure and he doesn’t have the parent figure at home, he doesn’t have the older brother. It’s the classic Karate Kid story again. It’s another Miguel, it’s another Daniel, and he’s looking for answers, he’s looking for a mentor, and he ends up finding it in Robby and he ends up getting deeper into Cobra Kai. To have Anthony and Kenny as foils for each other and exploring that full relationship and the power dynamic and what it does to both of them was really important.”
As Heald put it, “It’s new but it’s also the same ingredients that we played with before in the past in terms of what makes a bully and what is a bully and they’re not always people who have hatred in their hearts. Sometimes there’s more going on, and at times there’s more going on because it’s a bad home life, but in this instance, there’s more going on because we’re exploring the social dynamics of middle school and what it is just trying to fit in.”
IS JULIE NEXT?
The end of Cobra Kai Season 3 brought back Elisabeth Shue for a two-episode stint as Ali, reprising her role from the original Karate Kid, and while there are a few other enticing characters who could still pop in from The Karate Kid films, on the heels of Terry Silver’s return in Season 4, there’s one last holy grail of sorts for the series – Hilary Swank‘s Julie Pierce, the title character from The Next Karate Kid. Swank of course has gone on to an acclaimed career, winning two Oscars in the process, all while still proving quite adept at fight scenes, as proven once more in 2020’s The Hunt.
On Cobra Kai, Julie has still never been seen nor even mentioned, but the show’s creators are maintaining a never say never attitude about it and it’s certainly hard for fans not to ponder what it would be like if she ever became one of those aforementioned Karate Avengers.
When asked if Julie could still come back, Hurwitz replied, “All we can say about her is we love Hilary Swank. We think she’s a phenomenal actress and we love her character in this franchise. She was taught by Mr. Miyagi and she’s somebody who is important to the Karate Kid universe. We can’t say if she’ll return, we can’t say how she’d return if she was going to return.”
He added, with a laugh, “We can say that we talk about her and maybe we’ve met her, maybe we’ve worked with her, maybe we haven’t. We can’t tell you anything! It’s gonna continue to be a question until either she shows up or the series ends and we welcome the question every time!”
Click on the image below for seven Karate Kid characters we’d still love to see return on Cobra Kai.