“Cobra Kai” returns for its fourth season Friday on Netflix with more action, more tension and, most importantly, more of the All Valley Karate Tournament.
The stakes are high for this go-around of the tournament. Daniel (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny (William Zabka) have set their 30-year-plus rivalry aside to combine their dojos in an attempt to take down John Kreese (Martin Kove) and the evil Cobra Kai. With the tournament on the horizon, Kreese has made a proposal to Daniel and Johnny: If Cobra Kai loses, he will go away. But if Daniel and Johnny lose, Cobra Kai will reign supreme in the Valley.
Adding a wrinkle to this feud: Johnny’s son, Robby (Tanner Buchanan), has joined Kreese and Cobra Kai after his relationship with his dad spiraled downward. Kreese’s prized pupil, Tory (Peyton List), who, like Robby, has had her share of personal struggles, was a major factor in Robby crossing over to the dark side.
“Tory definitely does play on Robby’s insecurities and she feels like she can see right through him and does try to, you know, I think manipulate him into coming into Cobra Kai,” List told TODAY in a Zoom interview. “In season four I think — it is more of that and their relationship is growing a lot, but I also think that they can relate on a lot. They’ve been put in a really similar situation just as far as their family backgrounds and their dynamics and, like, just what they’ve gone through as people.”
Cobra Kai also welcomes back a key figure from its past: Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), the over-the-top (but entertaining) villain from the 1989 film “The Karate Kid Part III.” List said Griffith brought a “great energy” to the show.
“I was very intimidated by Thomas coming in because I think Silver is one of the most intense ‘Karate Kid’ villains and he did not disappoint,” List, 23, shared. “He brings that intensity, and he is — I mean, he’s an incredible martial artist in real life, and just seeing him stretching in between takes on the mats, or, you know, doing a little workout. The man is doing splits. … He’s a strong individual and he’s still just as in shape as he was (at the time of ‘Part III’).”
Tory, who is intense in her own right, doesn’t necessarily hit it off with Silver. List said their relationship is a complicated one.
“Him coming in as another sensei into the Cobra Kai dojo has been something that Tory isn’t necessarily sure of, and Tory’s not very eager to accept him,” she revealed.
One thing that Tory and Silver have in common is a ruthless approach to karate. Tory has been at the center of a couple of epic fights with Daniel’s daughter, Sam (Mary Mouser), in recent seasons, including ones at their school and at Sam’s home. List said those fights required both physical and mental preparation.
“They are long hours and we are working with our stunts team every day. Every chance we can get, every second we can get, we are just prepping these fights and we’re stretching and working and going over the choreography. And we get to work with some of the best stunt choreographers and martial artists and just such talented humans.
“But, yeah, it’s definitely, it’s made me a lot stronger being a part of this show. Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever been in better shape.”
Filming those scenes was also a lot of fun for List.
“Nothing compares to the energy of completing a fight scene,” she said, comparing the big brawls to a dance where “everybody has to hit their beat and their mark and their fight move and their choreo.”
“It’s just the best. I’ve never had a rush like that after completing a scene,” she added.
Though it’s easy to label Tory as one of the villains of the show, given her association with Cobra Kai and her clashes with Sam, List believes her character is much more than just a bad girl — not unlike how “Cobra Kai” has shown that Johnny isn’t necessarily just a bad guy.
“I think the deeper I’ve gotten to dive into her home life and into her background it’s just, you know, everyone has a story and everyone has somewhere they’re coming from,” she said. “I mean, it’s all about also how you handle it and how you handle yourself coming from that, but I do think Tory has some room for redemption. I mean, I think it’s going to take a lot, but I think she’s a strong girl and she has to just own her mistakes.”
List, who will launch a new makeup brand in January called Pley Beauty, has already wrapped season five of “Cobra Kai.” There’s no official word yet on the future of the Emmy-nominated series beyond that, but List thinks there is room for the show to grow even more.
“I can see the show going for a lot longer. I mean, maybe that’s just me. But I think the way the writers and the creators have pulled just from three films and the way they’ve kept it going, and then also the new characters that they’ve added to the show and to the whole world, I think they can expand,” she said.