[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from Season 1 of “Cobra Kai,” including its finale. For a non-spoilery read, check out IndieWire’s review (where you can also watch the first two episodes for free).]
The motto for “Cobra Kai’s” titular dojo, “Strike First. Strike Hard. No Mercy,” could apply to YouTube Red continuing Daniel Larusso’s saga. Although there has been no official announcement for Season 2, the way the first season ended didn’t just leave the dojo wide open, it set up new conflicts that absolutely need to be addressed.
Whether or not they’ll be resolved is a different story. If there’s anything we’ve learned from the series so far, some things never change, and memories are very, very long.
Here’s a breakdown of where everything left off and what that could mean for a second season:
1. Sensei Kreese Is Back, and Scarier Than Ever
John Kreese (Martin Kove) is the ex-Special Forces Vietnam vet who had become the driving force behind Cobra Kai back in the ‘80s. As Johnny Lawrence’s (William Zabka) sensei, Kreese ruled by fear and instilled ruthlessness in his students. The teacher is also the one who instructed one student to execute an illegal move that injured Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) during the All-Valley Karate Championship that he eventually went on to win using the one-legged crane kick.
Now middle-aged, Johnny has been on a path to redemption. Even though he’s taught a new breed of students — all of whom have been bullied themselves — to gain confidence and fight back, he’s been having second thoughts about the methods used to obtain victory. Keese’s surprise return (didn’t Johnny say that he was dead?) in the wake of Cobra Kai’s most recent victory at the Championship does not bode well. In the past, Kreese abused Johnny and broke his trophy after he lost to Daniel. The old sensei and the new could either butt heads, or Johnny may backslide and allow his old teacher to take over.
2. There’s a New Dojo in Town
Daniel brought his new protege Robby (Tanner Buchanan), who had just come in second at the Championship after injuring his shoulder, to a secret location. It turns out that Daniel’s love for karate has returned with a vengeance and that he’s opened up his very own dojo, Miyagi Do Karate, continuing the practice that his sensei, the late Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), had begun.
This new dojo, along with the return of Kreese, officially resurrects the old rivalry from 34 years ago. Perhaps the kids who were put off by Johnny’s sharp tongue and quit Cobra Kai will head to Miyagi Do Karate. Or maybe there will be some defectors. Of course, we know who the most obvious star pupil should be…
3. Samantha LaRusso, Ass-Kicker
Sam (Mary Mouser) was always Daddy’s little girl and put on a gi when she was just a wee child. Although she still has excellent karate skills, that didn’t come out much at all in the first season except for the occasional tip she’d give to her now ex-boyfriend Miguel (Xolo Maridueña). With him out of the picture going fully to the dark side of Cobra Kai, she’s no longer conflicted. In the last moments of the finale, we see her at the LaRusso home dojo executing some acrobatic moves. She’s inspired. If she joins Miyagi Do Karate, not only will that possibly pit her against her ex, but she’ll also be in the orbit of Robby, who was interested in her romantically but held off since she was in a relationship. The key word there is “was.” The love triangle is destined to continue.
So much about “The Karate Kid” universe is about finding father figures and how they shape who you are as a person. Daniel’s father died when he was very young, and Johnny only had a cold and verbally abusive stepfather. But Daniel was fortunate enough to be influenced by the wise and kind Mr. Miyagi, whereas Johnny had the misfortune to be abused even more by Kreese.
Johnny seems to have come a long way in mentoring Miguel, with a few missteps. But the new wrinkle is that Daniel’s protege Robby is, in fact, Johnny’s son, whom he had all but ignored until now. Going into Season 2, Johnny would have to make amends and compete with Daniel’s gentler, more understanding ways in order to win back his own flesh and blood.
5. The Reigning Champ
While Miguel should be feeling pretty damn good about himself after winning the All-Valley, he’s left without his biggest emotional supporters. His sensei, Johnny, is distracted by his son Robby’s betrayal. And Sam broke up with him after he accidentally hit her while he was drunk and got jealous of Robby. Hmm, there’s a common denominator here, and it starts with “R” and ends with “obby.” Miguel already beat down his ass in the tournament, but a second generation rivalry looks like it’s in order.
Season 1 of “Cobra Kai” is currently available on YouTube Red.