The following post contains minor spoilers for Cobra Kai Season 5. There is no official word yet from Netflix on a sixth season of Cobra Kai, but nothing about the just-released Season 5 suggests it will be the show’s last. The season ends on yet another big cliffhanger, and in interviews series star Ralph Macchio has revealed that the production already shot footage intended for Season 6, if and when Netflix picks up Cobra Kai for more episodes.
I’m pretty confident we’ll see Cobra Kai Season 6. And if we do, I’ll watch it. But if it was up to me, I’d make that the show’s farewell. Cobra Kai hasn’t worn out its welcome — yet. Still, Season 5 was easily the weakest in the series’ run to date, and the one where its clever strategy of mining the old Karate Kid movies for story material finally began to run out of steam.
Cobra Kai has maybe the greatest legacyquel premise of all time: 30 years after the events of The Karate Kid, the roles between the film’s two leads have totally reversed as adults. Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), who was the BMOC in high school and the Cobra Kai dojo, grew up to become a total loser.
After getting his face kicked in by his rival Daniel LaRusso (Macchio) at a karate tournament, Johnny spent much of the next few decades drinking and moping. In the meantime, Daniel grew into a successful businessman — and even sort of a cocky jerk. Meanwhile, a new kid named Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) needs guidance and help with his own high school bullies. Without a kind and wise Mr. Miyagi to mentor him, Miguel winds up under Johnny’s wing. He decides to restart the Cobra Kai dojo in order to help Miguel — much to Daniel’s chagrin.
That’s the ingenious, character-based place where the show started. The early years of the show forced viewers to rethink Johnny and Daniel and their relationship. We saw that Johnny’s childhood was just as painful as Daniel’s, and it learned the underlying psychological issues behind his bullying. Later, Cobra Kai showed just how brutal John Kreese’s life was before he started his “evil” dojo. After you saw what he went through in Vietnam, you understood why he might subscribe to a philosophy of striking out at one’s enemies before they can strike you. Cobra Kai threw a coat of gray over all of The Karate Kid’s black-and-white, good-versus-evil morality.
By Season 5, most of those elements are long gone, along with many of the character’s more complicated dimensions. Daniel, who was almost the villain of the early Cobra Kai episodes, has resumed his role as the franchise’s stalwart and indomitable hero, while Johnny, who was depicted as well-meaning but deeply misguided, has turned into a lovable oaf who gets along with everyone. The characters’ rough edges have been sanded off — except for the series’ main antagonist through its most recent two seasons, Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith).
First introduced in The Karate Kid Part III, Silver never quite fit into Cobra Kai’s concept of muddying up the simplistic Karate Kid movies. The Terry Silver of The Karate Kid Part III is a figure of cartoonish evil, a businessman who made a fortune dumping toxic waste and then decides to help out his old war buddy John Kreese by getting revenge on his behalf against the old man and the recent high school graduate who embarrassed him. In the film, Silver, a fully grown man, seemingly puts his entire life on hold to destroy Daniel, a broke teenager with few prospects. He hires goons to intimidate him, pretends to care about him, drives a wedge between him and Mr. Miyagi, and then trains him for a tournament with deliberately sadistic and painful techniques. All because Daniel beat one of his friend’s students in a karate tournament!
Griffith is effective as the brilliant Silver, but the character is so utterly devoid of redeeming characteristics, and so beyond any sort of audience sympathy, that he doesn’t fit the rest of Cobra Kai’s fictional universe, where everyone on both sides of the Cobra Kai vs. Miyagi-Do war possesses relatable motivations. Most of the people on Cobra Kai want to get their life in order, gain confidence, exorcise their tortured pasts, or find acceptance in a group of fellow outsiders. Terry Silver essentially wants to conquer the world through a karate dojo, while simultaneously exacting more revenge against Daniel LaRusso, who he has now harbored a 35-year grudge against. Terry Silver cannot be made into a complex creature with a tortured backstory — or if it’s theoretically possible, Cobra Kai’s creators never figured out how to do it.
Moving into its sixth season, the show has other problems as well. In the beginning, its cast of younger characters was one of its stronger assets. In addition to Miguel, there was also Sam (Mary Mouser), Daniel’s popular daughter, Robby Keene (Tanner Buchanan), Johnny’s estranged and troubled son, and Hawk (Jacob Bertrand) another bullied kid whose fury at his mistreatment eventually pushes him to join Cobra Kai. They allowed Cobra Kai to see how those old high school stereotypes featured in The Karate Kid looked in a modern context, and to emphasize one of the show’s key themes: That abuse perpetuates abuse in a never-ending cycle of violence.
By Season 5, though, the “young” cast of Cobra Kai is starting to look as old as Ralph Macchio did in The Karate Kid Part III, when he was supposed to be playing an 18-year-old while he was actually 27 in real life. (Mouser is already 26. Looking like a fully-grown adult while you’re still in high school apparently runs in the LaRusso family.) Even more importantly, some of these kids’ storylines have basically resolved already. In Cobra Kai’s early years, for example, Robby drifted back and forth from Cobra Kai to Miyagi-Do, as he struggled to come to terms with Johnny and eventually wound up expelled from school after accidentally injuring Miguel in a brawl. In Season 5, Robby has reconciled with his dad and ditched his bad-boy past with Cobra Kai. Within the first few episodes, he even buries the hatchet with Miguel and the two become friends. He spends the rest of the season as total do-gooder waiting for a new subplot that never really arrives.
When Cobra Kai was at its best, it had an uncanny knack for turning facile concepts from The Karate Kid movies into genuinely thoughtful and compelling drama. The longer it goes on, the closer and closer it’s getting to becoming just as goofy and over-the-top as the original films. Just look at that cliffhanger that ends this season, which sounds like the premise of a very bad The Karate Kid Part IV, not what we’ve come to expect from the far smarter Cobra Kai. No one’s literally jumped over a shark on the show yet. But the way things seems to be headed, it wouldn’t feel that out of place if someone did.
The Coolest Karate Kid Easter Eggs in Cobra Kai Season 5
Our favorite moments from Cobra Kai Season 5 that are references to the old movies.
1. Terry Silver’s Master
In The Karate Kid Part III, Terry Silver’s plan to get proxy revenge on Daniel on behalf of his old war buddy John Kreese — never forget just how weird Karate Kid Part III is! — involving conning Daniel into believing he was there to make amends with him on behalf of Cobra Kai. He visits Mr. Miyago’s dojo and introduces himself as the student of Kim Sun-Yung, supposedly a great martial-arts master. In Karate Kid Part III, that was a throwaway line; in this season of Cobra Kai, it becomes hugely important, as we learn about Kim Sun-Yung’s techniques, and some of his disciples travel to America to work for Terry Silver’s ascendant dojo.
2. Chozen’s Uncle
Episode 2 features a brief flashback to Chozen’s childhood, where he talks about his martial-arts training with his uncle. They don’t go into the details, but that is Sato, who was Mr. Miyagi’s rival from back home in Okinawa. In The Karate Kid Part II, Sato and Chozen serve as the main antagonists for most of the film, although Sato eventually has a change of heart late in the movie after he witnesses Daniel and Miyagi’s bravery during a terrible storm (more on that later). Previous seasons of Cobra Kai established that Sato changed his ways after the events of The Karate Kid Part II and died a few years ago.
3. Barnes’ Contract
The plot of The Karate Kid Part III sees Terry Silver hire a mercenary karate master named Mike Barnes to help him destroy Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi by winning the annual All-Valley Karate Tournament. (Never forget just how weird Karate Kid Part III is!) A grown-up Mike Barnes returns on Episode 3 of Season 5, and in it he refers to one of the most absurd parts of Karate Kid Part III — that Silver agreed to draw up a contract regarding Barnes’ payment if he successfully destroys Daniel in the All-Valley. (Because what you want to do when you’re enacting a very demented proxy revenge plan on behalf of your old war buddy is make sure there’s a paper trail covering all of it.) Barnes actually mentions the contract, and confirms it did exist, but admits he lost it long ago.
4. Playing With the Boys
The dream sequence that begins Episode 4 is a direct homage to the famous beach volleyball montage from Top Gun set to Kenny Loggins’ “Playing With the Boys.” Top Gun was a close contemporary of the original Karate Kid, but it’s even more fitting on Cobra Kai today because Top Gun got its own legacyquel this year with Top Gun: Maverick.
5. Rare Bonsai Trees
Evil Terry Silver really sticks it to Daniel when he bids an outrageous amount of money at a charity auction for a trio of Daniel’s rare bonsai trees. In The Karate Kid Part III, Mr. Miyagi and Daniel started a bonsai tree business; over the course of the film Mike Barnes and Silver’s other goons repeatedly attempt to destroy their business and the beautiful little trees, so Silver is well aware just how mad buying them and threatening to destroy them will make Daniel. What a jerk!
6. Jessica Andrews
When Amanda temporarily leaves Daniel, she returns home to Ohio and reconnects with Jessica Andrews, Daniel’s sort-of love interest from The Karate Kid Part III. In that film, Jessica is a recent transplant from Ohio to Los Angeles, and she and Daniel strike up a friendship, although they never quite become a couple. (Supposedly, the 27-year-old Ralph Macchio was uncomfortable playing romantic scenes with actress Robin Livelyn, who was only 16 at the time.) While it seems like an incredible coincidence that Daniel’s wife is good friends with one of his almost-sorta-girlfriends, Cobra Kai provides an explanation for this: Jessica returned home to Ohio, and when Amanda made her own move from the Buckeye State to L.A., Jessica “put her in touch with Daniel.”
7. Who Do You Think You’re Fooling With Those Sunglasses?
After Daniel gets beaten up by Terry Silver in Episode 6, he’s seen leaving his house trying to hide his black eyes behind a pair of dark sunglasses. This is very much in character for Daniel, as he tried the exact same trick in the original Karate Kid movie, after Johnny Lawrence beat him up before the first day of school.
8. Daniel Has Done Some Wild Stuff
Johnny and Chozen finally meet in Episode 6, and when they do, they trade Daniel LaRusso stories, as they have both been on the losing side of his heroic exploits in the past. Their back and forth includes the line “I saw him save a girl from a typhoon!” which sounds absurd but is absolutely true; in The Karate Kid Part II, a typhoon hit Mr. Miyagi’s Okinawa village, and a little girl wound up hanging from an electrical pole. Daniel risked his life to save her while a terrified Chozen watched from below.
9. Pain Does Not Exist
The new sensei at Cobra Kai, Alicia Hannah-Kim’s Kim Da-eun, admonishes her students that “pain does not exist!” That’s a variation of one of John Kreese’s famous lines from the first Karate Kid, “Pain does not exist in this dojo, does it?” to which his students would reply “No Sensei!”
10. A Very Dumb Scam
During the adults’ night out at the dance club, Daniel and Chozen reference an infamous gaffe from The Karate Kid Part II. In the film, Chozen is using a rigged scale to cheat the locals and Daniel inadvertantly reveals his scheme by knocking over the weights and breaking one in half. Except if Chozen were using fake weights on his scale, he’d actually have to pay the villagers’ more for their crops, not less. He’d need to add more fake weights to the scale to get it to balance, which would make it seem like the crops were heavier and more valuable than they really were. When Daniel and Chozen mention this altercation in Cobra Kai, they acknowledge that it didn’t make sense and Chozen jokes that it was not his smartest plan, cleverly turning this error into an aspect of his character. And it makes sense; Chozen wasn’t exactly a genius in The Karate Kid Part II. He was an arrogant jerk! Trying to scam people, but totally screwing it up actually does feel like something he would. So this is a very nice retcon.
11. A Kick That Haunted His Life
During another heart-to-heart between Johnny and Chozen, the former says “My whole life was haunted by one stupid kick.” That of course is the famous final crane kick that Daniel used to defeat Johnny in the All-Valley Karate Championship. As shown in the first season of Cobra Kai, those events sent his life into a downward spiral that lasted decades, until he started to get himself back on track by relaunching the Cobra Kai dojo.
12. A Painful Training Dummy
Cobra Kai’s increasingly sadistic tests of Tory’s loyalty escalate to the point where she is forced to punch a training dummy covered in pieces of stone. This is an even more punishing version of a test that Terry Silver used to torture Daniel in The Karate Kid Part III. But hey, pain doesn’t exist in the Cobra Kai dojo, so she’ll probably be fine, right?
When Chozen gets drunk in Episode 9, he reveals that he harbors feelings for Kumiko, who was the woman that Daniel fell in love with in Okinawa in The Karate Kid Part II. That movie’s final battle saw Chozen kidnap Kumiko and hold her hostage. Daniel defeated Chozen in a final battle, showed him mercy, and set Chozen on a much better life path. But he still harbors intense shame about his actions way back when, and so he has supposedly hidden his love for Kumiko until he calls her on the phone in this episode and tells her when he returns to Okinawa, he needs to see her and tell her something important. The adult Kumiko, played by Tamlyn Tomita, previously appeared in Season 3 of Cobra Kai, in a storyline where Daniel visited Japan on a business trip.
14. “Finish Him!”
When Silver orders his goons to beat up Johnny in the season finale, he says “Finish him!” a callback to John Kreese’s instructions to Johnny himself during the finals of the All-Valley tournament in The Karate Kid. It’s funny how often things come full circle in this fictional universe.
15. “A Man Can’t Stand, He Can’t Fight”
Daniel is finally — finally!!! — able to beat Terry Silver by remembering and countering all the lessons that Terry taught him way back in The Karate Kid Part III. They included instructions like “A man can’t stand, he can’t fight,” and so on. This was a nice way for Daniel to finally put an end to Terry Silver’s wildly outsized quest to destroy him for reasons that honestly never really made much sense in the first place. Never forget just how weird Karate Kid Part III is!