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Why ‘Cobra Kai’s’ move to Netflix is the perfect sequel
By John Lim / Twitter: @bemovingforward
“People will be talking about that last kick for years!” -Tournament Announcer (The Karate Kid Part II)
One of my favorite aspects of the original Karate Kid sequels is how they open with flashbacks to the prior installments. It’s a tried and true storytelling device that pays homage to the serialized films of yesteryear. It would remind fans of highlights from the prior chapter while giving new audiences a brief primer to catch them up to speed.
So, in honor of the first two Karate Kid sequels, here is a callback to an article I wrote in May 2018, following the release of the first season of Cobra Kai.
“But instead, YouTube Red is allowing consumers to try its service for 30 days, binge all 10 episodes, and cancel with no strings attached. They know that people are going to share this tidbit when talking about ‘Cobra Kai.’ They’ve even included this information in all of their own marketing.
I believe they are playing a long game.
‘Cobra Kai’ is their first step to becoming a real player as a subscription platform. Because of its success, millions of people now know what YouTube Red is. It has become part of a larger conversation. But as great as the show is, it’s probably not enough to justify a long-term subscription …
You can read the full article here. When I wrote that piece, I looked at Cobra Kai both from a storytelling and business standpoint, trying to understand every nuance of this sleeper hit that was underestimated from the day it was announced. It went on to defy all odds and become a universally loved sequel to a cherished franchise. The one piece of the puzzle that took some time to dissect was understanding why the creators went with YouTube Premium as opposed to a more established platform like Netflix, Hulu, or Prime.
As I did my research for the first article, I discovered that the show’s creators, Jon Hurwitz (Twitter: @jonhurwitz), Hayden Schlossberg (Twitter: @McSchlossberg), and Josh Heald (Twitter: @healdrules), had numerous conversations and pitch meetings and that most, if not all of the major streaming services expressed interest. After all, this was the project that would reunite original Karate Kid actors, Ralph Macchio (Twitter: @ralphmacchio) and William Zabka (Twitter: @WilliamZabka), reprising their iconic roles. Who wouldn’t want to be the streaming platform to showcase that overdue reunion? I learned that they went with YouTube because the executives were warm, personable, and strongly supported their vision for Cobra Kai. It’s akin to choosing to work for a startup with a lot of promise or because of a new boss you really like.
The Miyagi Do School of Market Strategy: “Sometime when take trip, better know where trip end. Otherwise better just stay home.”
I don’t need to tell you that Cobra Kai defied all expectations. It became a smash hit, racking up tens of millions of views for its first two episodes and YouTube immediately greenlit a second season that promised to be bigger and better than the first.
Meanwhile, the fandom surrounding Cobra Kai exploded. The show inspired new content creators that analyzed and dissected every nuance, plot point, and character. Moreover, these podcasters, YouTubers, and bloggers were actively engaging with the creators and stars of the show.
“Right in front of a thousand people.” -Terry Silver (The Karate Kid Part III)
A notable example is Peter Veunnasack (Twitter: @RipCitizen). His day job is working for the USPS as a mail carrier. During his off-hours, he is one of the most prolific content creators catering to Cobra Kai and Karate Kid fandom. Peter hosts the podcast, Cobra Kai Kompanion(Twitter: @CobraKaiPod), along with Karate Kid superfan Brihana Davidson (Twitter: @brihana25), a gifted artist who has created Cobra Kai fan art so good, Sony and Netflix should consider canonizing it as official marketing material. Through the podcast, Peter and Brihana have spoken to the creators and many of the actors and actresses from Cobra Kai and the Karate Kid films. The content serves an important role, giving fans news and behind-the-scenes insights that helps fill the void between seasons. In addition, the Kompanion Facebook group is one of the most enthusiastic virtual communities devoted to the show, bringing fans together from all over the world. It’s what happens when a sequel becomes its own cultural moment.. [7/4/20]
Cobra Kai has no ‘Villain’
By Dorian Tisato / Twitter: @doriantisato
Looking back at The Karate Kid trilogy, and even The Next Karate Kid (it’s canon, get over it!), there was always a main villain and henchman (i.e. Kreese & Johnny, Sato & Chozen, Silver & Barnes, Dugan & Ned). But in the spin-off Cobra Kai, cliches don’t exist in this dojo, do they?
Let it be clear, there’s a difference between a villain and an antagonist. A villain is a one-dimensional character and has no redeeming qualities (Mike Barnes, for example), while an antagonist does everything they can to take down the protagonist. In Season 1, Daniel was the antagonist, and Johnny was the protagonist. Johnny wanted to bring back Cobra Kai to make a living, while Daniel wanted to stop Cobra Kai from taking over the Valley like it was in 1984.
When we first meet Johnny in Season 1, he’s not exactly a hero. More of an anti-hero. He’s bitter, cynical and somewhat clueless. Consistently living in the past, Johnny has painful memories of losing to Daniel in the ’84 All Valley and Kreese trying to kill him. Plus it doesn’t help that his step-dad Sid chastises him for ignoring his son, Robby. It’s only when he re-opens Cobra Kai that his life slowly turns around and gains his first student, Miguel. Despite Johnny not really caring for him in the beginning, Miguel doesn’t relent and Johnny grows to respect his student. While Johnny’s relationship with Robby continues to suffer, Miguel becomes his surrogate son. This relationship is reminiscent of Mr. Miyagi and Daniel in some ways. Johnny goes as far as to give Miguel fatherly advice that helps him grow into the man he wants to be, even if it’s a little off-beat. Johnny repeatedly claims that he wants to change Cobra Kai, but if the Season 2 finale taught us anything, it’s this: you can’t change Cobra Kai, it changes you.
Daniel appears briefly in the first episode, mostly through his LaRusso Auto commercials. When he finally appears to Johnny, Daniel is not the same character we remember: he’s confident, jovial and mature. However, the Daniel we know resurfaces in the blink of an eye, when he sees Cobra Kai is back. Fearing the worst, Daniel rekindles his rivalry with Johnny. While his intentions were from a good place, they weren’t exactly ‘heroic’: Daniel attempts to jack up the rent for the strip mall to put Johnny out of business. However, this means all the other businesses suffer too. Feeling guilt over his actions, Daniel turns to the one person who he knows can help: Mr. Miyagi. Despite being deceased, Daniel remembers that Mr. Miyagi told him to find balance in his life. Following this fond memory, Daniel recommences his training in Miyagi Do, even getting a student in his employee Robby (also Johnny’s son). Daniel forgives Robby when he finds out his deceit and passes on almost all of Miyagi’s wisdom to the troubled teen. While he cares very deeply for Robby, Daniel can still turn at the drop of a hat. Case in point in the Season 2 finale, Robby is verbally attacked by Daniel for not bringing Sam home.
Following the school brawl with Sam in hospital and Robby missing, Daniel is forced to quit Karate and partly blames himself for letting things get this bad. Will he ever truly find balance?
While it’s easy to pass the blame to Daniel – as most fans seem to be doing nowadays – let us not forget it takes two to tango: Johnny knew Kreese had a lot of making up to do and once he started poisoning his students minds at Coyote Creek, it was too late. This isn’t to say that either were malicious in any way. Both men were doing what they thought was right, which reverts back to what The Big 3 have said time and time again, these characters are shades of grey.
So there you have it, no villains exist. But then who is ‘The Bad Guy’? Well, again, there’s no such thing in Cobra Kai. They’re all human and they all make mistakes, but times have changed, and people have changed. Even Kreese has become more human, although he is the antagonist in Season 2 – which was confirmed in Episode 10, but he is not the cartoonish villain we remember: he’s insecure, somewhat restrained, and even vulnerable. However, there’s still some semblance of the Kreese we remember including his ‘No Mercy’ approach to Cobra Kai and his mind games he plays with Daniel, Johnny and the other students from both dojos. It’s surprising not labelling Kreese a villain, but what’s even more surprising is that his tortured, almost damaged psyche is slowly revealing itself.
Looking at the next generation of ‘Karate Kids’, they’re just that: kids. None are ‘villains’ or ‘heroes’, they’re teenagers that are trying to survive adolescence. I’m sure nobody had a perfect childhood growing up and The Big 3 has made that very clear in the first two seasons. Let’s face it, when you’re a teenager, you’re going to make mistakes, but that’s what makes the show entertaining and a lot of the younger cast do it superbly.
Starting with Miguel, he began as a shy, timid boy who after joining Cobra Kai became confident, tough and fearless. His bond with Johnny is stronger than anything he has ever known and the two become dependent on each other. Despite becoming ruthless at times, especially at the All Valley, his humanity remained, including his love for Sam, Johnny and his family. During the end of both Season 1 and Season 2, there were turning points for the young teen. In the first season, Miguel learned that deep down, winning isn’t everything. And in the second, a lesson in showing mercy was shown, but unfortunately, it was too late. Where Miguel’s journey goes from here, remains to be seen.
Now to one of the most compelling characters in the series: Robby, Johnny’s estranged son. Robby began as a troubled, rebellious and angry kid who after joining Miyagi-Do became a calmer, more compassionate young man. Despite the lack of parental guidance, Robby showed that there is more to him than his criminal past including a sense of honour and humility. However, despite his best efforts, Robby still harbours resentment towards Johnny for abandoning him and to make matters worse, his criminal past came back to haunt him more than once. In the Season 2 finale, after consistent rejection and abandonment, Robby ignored everything Daniel taught him and showed ‘No Mercy’ – just like a Cobra – towards Miguel and kicked him over the rails that leaves Cobra Kai’s top student with critical injuries and in a coma. With Robby on the run, one thing is for sure: his life will never be the same again.
Let’s talk about Sam. Sam is definitely a LaRusso: protective, courageous and kind-hearted. Sam is someone that you want on your side if things get rough. However, Sam – like Daniel – is also impulsive, hot-headed and self-blaming. But just remember, she’s a teenage girl who consistently carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. Daniel’s judgement towards all of the Cobra Kai students and the presumption of them being bullies puts ideas in Sam’s head. This was unintentionally confirmed when Miguel hit Sam at the creek party. Following the All Valley tournament, this gave Sam motive to re-join Miyagi Do to protect herself, and luckily she did, or Tory may have done further damage in the S2 finale.
Speak of the devil, let’s discuss Tory. Tory is Sam’s Cobra Kai counterpart: ruthless, judgemental and blunt. Despite her rough exterior, Tory is not a bad person; she’s just a girl with a chip on her shoulder, and possibly insecure about her feelings towards Sam: Tory has implied to Miguel that she is poor and judges Sam repeatedly for being rich. Tory is a survivalist and is in it for herself. There’s no doubt that she cares for Miguel, but Tory is very quick to turn on those who hurt her. That trait is somewhat reminiscent of a young Daniel – think Karate Kid 3 when Mr Miyagi refuses to train him, Daniel blocks him out and joins Cobra Kai. Perhaps, Tory has a much more compelling backstory that goes deeper than the one Miguel hears.
This next character is by far the most multilayered character of them all: Eli. When we first meet him, Eli is an almost mute character that is repeatedly bullied by Kyler, Yasmine and the rest of the school bullies for the scar on his lip. It is only when Miguel comes along and tells them about Cobra Kai that Eli comes out of his shell. While his best friend, Demitri, quits after being humiliated in class by Johnny, Eli sticks with it. After a grilling from his Sensei about the scar on his lip and overall awkwardness, Eli seemingly quits but returns the next day with a new attitude and a mohawk with Johnny calling him ‘Hawk’. For the rest of the season, Eli evolved into his ‘Hawk’ persona becoming a brutal, no-holds-barred fighter with a mean streak and thirst for violence. Season 2 continued that tradition but Hawk became progressively worse, especially after he changed his mohawk from blue to red – symbolising rage and hatred. Falling under Kreese’s spell and becoming the very thing he was scared of: a bully, Hawk goes as far as to hurt Demitri. Will Eli ever resurface, or will Hawk remain the dominant personality?
We can’t talk about all the young characters without featuring the comic relief: Demitri. This kid not only tries to make light of every bad situation, but manages to get himself out of it unscathed. Like a lot of comic relief characters, Demitri is not the most popular guy in school, but he certainly has heart, especially when it comes to Eli. Their backstory implies that they were very close – ‘Binary Brothers’ is always the best. However, once Eli disappears and Hawk appears, Demitri sees a different person. After failing to join Cobra Kai and fed up with his best friend’s attitude, Demitri joins Miyagi-Do and tries to learn balance. It’s only during the school brawl that Demitri realises that the lessons do work and is able to defeat Hawk…for now.
A question a lot of the fans would be asking by this point is why is there still no ‘Bad Guy’? Well, there is, but it’s not a person. It’s Life. Life is the ‘Bad Guy’ of Cobra Kai. It hits these characters with all these obstacles – both professional and personal – and sometimes they make decisions based on impulse, as opposed to logic. But if everything was made logically, this wouldn’t be as compelling or as powerful as it is. That’s why Jon, Josh and Hayden have created this show to give these two long-time rivals (Daniel and Johnny) the chance to be better fathers, teachers and people. But for now, let’s chill and get ready for Season 3! [4/23/20]
The History of Daniel & Johnny’s Rivalry
By Dorian Tisato / Twitter: @doriantisato
This is a topic that many fans of the Karate Kid universe love to talk about: the infamous rivalry between Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence. Regardless of whose side you’re on, the truth is neither men are right or wrong. As the creators of Cobra Kai have reminded the fans time and time again, they’re all shades of grey.
From the events of the first film to the end of Season 2, Daniel and Johnny’s history – not relationship – history can be summed up in one word: toxic. Not just how they treat each other but how it affects the people around them. Every action, every word, every confrontation has had dire consequences. Just look at the end of Season 2 with Miguel being in a critical condition from the School Brawl. While it has been confirmed that Xolo Maridueña will be returning in Season 3, we won’t know in what capacity.
As we look deep into the rivalry, let us begin with Daniel: his marriage to Amanda is now strained to the point where she forces him to quit Karate, Sam has been put in the hospital after her fight with Tory and Robby has run away after being abandoned by Daniel.
Now to Johnny. While some may disagree, this man has been affected the most: Kreese betrays him for a second time by taking back Cobra Kai including the students, Miguel has broken his neck after his fight with Robby resulting in Carmen blaming him for what happened that results in her dumping him and to add insult to injury, Robby is now missing.
While it can be argued that Kreese orchestrated most of the events of Season 2, Daniel and Johnny are responsible for their own actions. This is not to excuse the manipulation and deceit that Kreese has caused both men, but Daniel and Johnny had a choice to put their rivalry to bed and move forward. Lets face it, we all want that to happen, but it wouldn’t be as compelling if they all of a sudden were best friends.
Going back to the beginning of all this, it’s understandable that back in the day their rivalry was so strong: Daniel and Johnny were kids and when you’re that age, it’s common to have conflict with someone you don’t like, but that was over 30 years ago. Now both being middle-aged men, Daniel and Johnny are still trying to outdo one another. Why? Because of one thing: Cobra Kai.
Both men feel differently about the infamous style of Karate: Johnny wants to step out of Kreese’s shadow and be better than him, while Daniel is trying to shut it down altogether to stop people from getting hurt. Despite what many “commentators” have said, both men are trying to do the right thing, but as seen at the end of Season 2, Daniel and Johnny still have a lot to learn. Now that Kreese is back in power, their rivalry needs to change and both need to put aside their grudge to prevent a repeat of what happened in ‘84.
So how can both men move forward? Season 2, Episode 9 gave a glimmer of hope. During the restaurant scene when Amanda and Carmen leave Daniel and Johnny alone, both men talk about their differences. Daniel revealed to Johnny that Kreese indirectly threatened him and his students, which shook Johnny in an unexpected way. In turn, Johnny assures Daniel that Kreese is gone for good. This was a turning point in the series: Johnny has a revelation that bringing Kreese back was a mistake and Daniel quietly acknowledges that Johnny isn’t Kreese. Following that was presumed to be a truce with a mutual handshake.
However, this was short-lived as the very next day, Daniel confronts Johnny and their 35 year “rematch” in the making was underway! Rather than it be playful or fun like Rocky 3, it was done from a protective nature: Daniel was trying to get his daughter to come home, while Johnny was trying to spare Sam the embarrassment. Neither is the aggressor (or villain) in this fight, however, they both handled it very poorly with Sam and Robby breaking it up. Now neither is to blame for how the fight broke out. Yes, Daniel did kick the door open causing Johnny to fall backwards; however, Johnny refused to let Daniel see his daughter. The reason both Daniel and Johnny struggle to move forward is neither men trust each other fully, if at all.
There is a presumption that Johnny would feel differently if he knew Daniel was a Cobra Kai (or at least from his point of view). This is a fact that Johnny is unaware of and could be revealed in Season 3. If Johnny knew what Terry Silver put Daniel through in ‘85, maybe it would give him some clarity as to why Daniel is so against Cobra Kai. This could mean that Johnny and Daniel both have something in common: Cobra Kai has ruined their lives and gives them motive to take Kreese down for good.
For both men to move forward and reconcile their differences, they would need to acknowledge all wrong-doings from the past, forgive each other and put faith in each other that there is mutual trust. In reality, this wouldn’t happen immediately because what has brought Daniel and Johnny together is their rivalry. And the truth is, their rivalry will always be a part of their interactions, but that doesn’t mean it has to be vindictive or toxic. As Robby hints in Episode 10, Daniel and Johnny could learn a lot from each other.
In fact, there are instances where Daniel and Johnny bring out the best in each other. There is proof in Episode 5, where Daniel confronts Johnny about the vandalism of Miyagi-Do, his car and the theft of Mr Miyagi’s medal of honour. This was a moment where Johnny began to feel uneasy about the future of Cobra Kai and couldn’t believe his students would stoop so low.
While it wasn’t Johnny’s fault, Daniel proved to Johnny that he is not afraid of him anymore and throws the Cobra Kai mantra back at him. By that same token, Johnny proved to Daniel that he is not the same person by showing mercy and not breaking out in a fight. It is in this scene alone that shows both Sensei’s at their best: fearless and honourable.
Whatever happens in Season 3, one thing is for sure: Daniel and Johnny have the chance to take a stand against Kreese and show him that they are no longer enemies. It is easy to see that the King Cobra can play these two like a fiddle, and that is where these two go wrong. Just like Mr Miyagi says in Karate Kid 2: it doesn’t matter who is stronger, it matters who is smarter. Wise words from the wisest of them all. [3/2/20]
Kharacter Studies: Sensei John Kreese
By Brihana Davidson
Welcome to Cobra Kai Kompanion’s new YouTube series: “Kharacter Studies”. These videos will analyze the characters of The Karate Kid/Cobra Kai universe, explore what makes us love (or hate) them, and give insight into who they are and why they are that way.
Join brihana25 for a look at the world of Cobra Kai through John Kreese’s eyes, an examination of the things he has done, discussion of the part he plays in the overall story, and an explanation of why “human” doesn’t necessarily mean “good”. [9/29/19]