Netflix’s Cobra Kai is ready to break out of the dojo and take center stage at the All Valley Tournament — just as its characters have done before — except this time, former mortal enemies Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) will kiai for the same team.
“In Season 2, Johnny and Daniel are in a really rough place,” creator Jon Hurwitz said during the Sony Pictures TV series’ panel at Deadline’s Contenders Television: The Nominees awards-season event. “They’ve been training a number of students each, and they thought they were doing the right thing, but it led to this explosive fight between everybody and the tragedy of Miguel’s [Xolo Maridueña] injury. So entering this season, these guys are looking inward and trying to figure out what they did wrong and trying to get it right moving forward. Each of them have journeys along the way with characters from their pasts to help them move forward towards the future.”
In the most recent Season 3, Macchio’s Daniel reunited with Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita) and Chozen (Yuji Okumoto) in the land of Miyagi: Okinawa. Macchio and the crew shot two episodes on the Japanese island that connects the series to The Karate Kid Part II.
“The Okinawa section, certainly for myself and the Daniel LaRusso character, was a big part of Season 3,” Macchio said. “It stepped everything up a level for mining the depth of his character and his journey, [and] his journey with Johnny Lawrence in a very strong way was informed by what he experienced in Okinawa. That’s what’s so well done in this show — what the guys in the writers room constantly create is the ability to continue going forward in the story organically by using pieces of history in the past teaching Daniel something about Mr. Miyagi he never knew.”
Zabka also experienced a blast from the past. Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue), the woman behind Daniel and Johnny’s rivalry, reappears and helps bring the boys together.
“I love when Elisabeth Shue came back and Johnny and Ali went on that date. That was the big plot device/character turn for Johnny that he could revisit his youth and his old love,” Zabka said. “So she unlocked him in many ways. Johnny starts Season 3 in the dumps, drunk in a bar and his student is injured. She comes back and kind of rehabilitates him and puts a little piece of his broken heart back together and puts it back in his chest. That’s empowering for the character.”
Check out the panel video above.