by all accounts, Netflix’s Cobra Kai sounds like a pretty phenomenal, albeit completely crazy show. Tracking up Karate Kid franchise he fired his fourth season on New Year’s Eve, continuing the adventures of Daniel LaRuss (Ralph Maccio), Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and their martial arts protégés. After John Kreese and the Cobra Kai dojo returned late last season, Daniel and Johnny decided it was the only way to bring down the old villain. either to unite and train their students together.
However, as with all teams, the path from enemy to ally can be quite bumpy. I’m talking to Entertainment Weekly for a spoiler-full speech on the fourth season, Macchio and Zabka discussed the arc of their relationship during the season. Danny and Johnny agree that Kreese and Cobra Kai must go, but by method how is their greatest source of conflict. Both actors felt it was important for their characters to clash over their approach to martial arts: Danny’s defensive Miyago-Do style versus Johnny’s aggression-based Eagle Fang style. Zabka especially believed it would have been “unfair” if there had been no conflict in the beginning: “They both come with their luggage, so of course there will be landmines.”
That baggage may be owed in part to their children. Danny learns that his son Anthony (Griffin Santopietro) is a bully, and his daughter Sam (Mary Mouser) learns the Eagle Fang from Johnny. Both are bitter pills to swallow, but Sam’s acceptance of his rival’s teachings may be the biggest, according to Macchio. He considered Danny a “caring parent, if not a perfect parent,” and seeing Johnny effectively replace him as a father caused a bit of resentment. But Johnny also has similar feelings for Danny, who teaches Miyagi-Do Miguel (Xolo Maridueña), a student whom Johnny loves as a son now that Crisis is teaching his real son, Robby (Tanner Buchanan). At the moment, the former bully is trying not to lose another son, which is manifested in some not so great ways. “He corrects too much,” Zabka admitted, “he nurtures Miguel and is afraid of losing that connection.”
Despite their problems, both men soon realize that they have to change their styles and see where the other person comes from. While filming the sequence in which Johnny sands the deck, Zabka realized “how great this was as an evolution of the character … It was really important that Johnny opened his heart and saw that there was something to learn here.” He found him too important to him because he realized that the scene showed how far Johnny had come since Miyagi saved his life in Karate Kid II.
However, that peace between the two is short-lived. In the fifth episode, two fighters face off to decide whose method their students will teach. Excited as the two of them read the script, they were surprised to see that the fight would end in a draw. Anticlimactic, perhaps, but co-showrunner Josh Heald explained how the draw came about. Both Danny and Johnny are both so “passionate” about who has better karate, but the show’s philosophy is about “researching [how] it’s not better, it’s just different. He moves on to this topic over and over again …. after they have come so far with their research into each other’s karate, and with their own interpretation of their masters ’karate – it would feel inauthentic.”
During the peak of the All Valley Championship, Danny is the one who realizes that their students can become better fighters by learning more styles. In addition, he makes a surprising move to apologize to Johnny, and even gives their partnership a new name “Miyagi-Fang”. Macchio openly admitted that he should be sold on stage and wanted it to be reduced, but Heald made a strong argument to keep it. Now sold, Macchio has decided to be loyal to Danny and that sounds weird at the moment. “It simply came to our notice then [’Miyagi-Fang’] out loud, ”he said,“ and then I label it ‘just for today.’ ”
As for Zabka? He loved it and thought it was a “moment of surrender and growth” for Johnny. “I think he’s starting to accept that work is going on … Admitting you’re wrong is probably one of the hardest things you have to do as a person, especially when you’re so determined.” But how will things shake for both men now that they are finally friends? That will have to wait until the fifth season.
Cobra Kai is now published on Netflix.
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