Johnny Come Lately
At first, it seems as if Johnny may have peaked back in 1984. When the show picks back up with him, he’s living a rather depressing life, and when he begins to interact with Miguel (Xolo Maridueña), Johnny spouts language that isn’t just un-PC, it’s incredibly dated as well.
“We just love the idea of a character of who is trapped in the past and that ’80s world. For him, it’s not ‘Stranger Things,’ it’s ‘Top Gun,’ ‘Iron Eagle,’ ‘Rocky.’ It’s Foreigner, it’s Survivor, it’s hard rock,” said Schlossberg. “He hasn’t changed that much. And as a result of that, it provides this generational conflict with these new students who are of a completely different generation, and it forces him to deal with that and even more, for them to deal with him.”
Heald added, “Johnny comes from a time that there was no such thing as political correctness and there was no such thing as tough love. These are terms that he never heard, it was just the way things were. We enjoyed the innocence of him saying some of these things that are not quite innocent because it’s not coming from a place of [where] he knows these are bad things to say, but he’s going to say them anyway. It comes from a place of this is the era in which he grew up in and he’s kind of trapped there and never really met anyone from this new world.”
“We love Johnny Lawrence being an ignorant character,” said Hurwitz. “If there was a woke Johnny Lawrence, I don’t think there would be a show.”
Johnny’s language and view of social issues aren’t the only outdated things either. Somehow, he never made it to the digital age and doesn’t understand the Internet, social media, or pretty much anything that connects people today. There’s a moment when he’s trying to read the url for a website on a flyer that is both excruciating and hilarious at the same time.
“Billy was down [to play that ignorance] once he kind of understood the character that we were going for,” said Hurwitz. “There were the occasional moments where he was like, ‘So, he really wouldn’t know about Facebook?’ And we’re like, ‘The character just somehow missed it. Somehow he hasn’t picked up on that.’”
“Listen, it’s part of the ignorance of the character. Some of the philosophies that Johnny has are valuable in society that he helps these kids in certain ways, and in other ways in which he still needs to kind of move forward and progress in life and perhaps this experience with the younger generation will help him grow as well.”
Missing Mr. Miyagi
On the flip side, Daniel just continued his winning streak after the karate championship, and along with his successful businesses, he also has a wife and two kids. While he appears to have it all, he lacks one thing.
“A big part of being a character … was the absence of Mr. Miyagi in his life and the void that has created in adulthood. We’ve never known a Daniel Larusso without Miyagi there to guide him,” said Heald. “Miyagi became a surrogate father, and we saw that relationship progress over three movies.
In our mythology, it continued into adulthood until he lost him.
“We knew that Daniel was always a little bit of that cocky teenager who would be first to throw a punch and say, ‘Come on, man, let’s go, all right?’” he continued. “The absence of that father there would throw you off balance.”
“Also, when you go from being the son to being the father role, now you have to do it on your own,” said Hurwitz. “There was an interesting continuation to what the ultimate theme of the original was about, which was beyond bullying, it was just about fathers and sons and mentors and students. And we were able to really kind of keep that storyline going with him.”
Daniel keeps seeking what he’s missing by trying to be the Miyagi to a new generation. His son, however, is not interested in anything, and his teenage daughter, Sam (Mary Mouser), left karate behind in childhood and is more focused on popularity and dating.
In one scene, Daniel can be seen making an attempt to find that Miyagi again when he meets his daughter’s boyfriend, Kyler (Joe Seo), who is Asian. Daniel is slicing and discussing sashimi to prepare for dinner, but is disappointed to find out that Kyler hates eating sushi and all fish.
“Daniel’s father figure was Asian, and he has all these warm feelings and warm experiences with his trips to Okinawa and all this,” said Hurwitz. “And he’s thinking, ‘I’m going to kind of connect with this kid.’
“We loved creating this character in Kyler that is not like most Asian characters that you see. Obviously, Hayden and I made the ‘Harold & Kumar’ movies, so we talked lots with John Cho about the portrayal of Asian characters,” he continued. “It’s rare that we see that Asian bully in high school who’s not particularly bright and not particularly connected to his culture in any sort of way. So it was fun for us to have Daniel sort of trying to connect with this kid and just meet basically a brick wall and nothing on the other side.”
“Cobra Kai” Season 2… and Beyond?
“Cobra Kai” was released on May 2, and YouTube Red has yet to announce a renewal. So many stories were left teed up, however, that another season feels assured. In the very least, the producers have already been discussing future storylines. [Update May 10: YouTube Red just announced the show has been renewed for Season 2.]
“When mapping out Season 1, we had too much story to tell in the time that we had, and it became evident early on that a lot of the stories that we were going to tell were going to get punted to a later season,” said Heald. “There are a lot of storylines that are now up in the air: between Miguel and Sam, Robby and his dad, Johnny and Kreese, Daniel and karate, Sam and Aisha, and Sam and karate. It was fun to have [Sam] start to re-embrace her karate past a little bit as the season went on. We see glimpses of it and hopefully we’ll see more of that in Season 2.
“But Xolo [Mariduena] and Tanner [Buchanan] and Nichole [Brown] who played Aisha, Jacob Bertrand (Eli), Gianni [Decenzo] (Demetri), all of them. I could go on.. Every single one of those actors showed such depth and growth and a range throughout the season that we can’t wait to sort of explore the different sides of all these characters.”
Miguel may have come out on top at the karate championship, but he lost his girlfriend, Sam, and seemed to have become a ruthless villain by the end. Where he goes next could involve insight into his past.
“Miguel’s dad is mentioned once in the first season as a bad man in Ecuador. So we know that we have that in our back pockets … when or if we continue that storyline or reintroduce that figure into this world. It would have to make sense without being a complete aside. It would have to fit into the overall arcs and structure of a future season, not just be a gratuitous one-off,” said Schlossberg. “But I think it gives you also a little bit of a taste of where Miguel gets some of that dark side from, not just from Johnny, but also a little bit in the past with his father’s anger issues, which you may or may not learn at some point.”
In reading IndieWire’s list of storylines that Season 2 should attack, comedian Patton Oswalt had a intriguing suggestion of his own:
This is a terrific analysis, but the 6th story HAS to be Elisabeth Shue, and how she haunts both of these hilarious, damaged Valley dudes. https://t.co/WQIm8fsjLm
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) May 4, 2018
In the original film, Elisabeth Shue had played Ali Mills, a girl who had once dated Johnny but eventually became Daniel’s girlfriend. In “Cobra Kai,” she’s mentioned often, and when Daniel tracks her down on Facebook, she’s married and living elsewhere.
“There’s no question that this whole story with Ali that she’s the Helen of Troy of the Johnny, Daniel rivalry,” said Schlossberg. “As you saw the first season, her character looms large in this world and in this story. We don’t want to give the spoilers, [but] you never know what to expect. I think we just love all the characters, all the actors from the original movie. And so, anything is possible.”
Heald added, “We have established a lot of new characters and a lot of new storylines that are going to continue to spider web out and expand. But let’s not forget we have the entire canon of ‘The Karate Kid’ universe and history. As it continues on and on, we expect to see some more of those characters making [their presence known] as well.”
Perhaps Hilary Swank’s character Julie from “The Next Karate Kid” or Tamlyn Tomita’s character from “The Karate Kid Part II” will return Sounds like it’s time to watch the original films again to see who else might pop up.
All 10 episodes of “Cobra Kai” Season 1 are currently available on YouTube Red.