This story contains minor spoilers for Season Five of “Cobra Kai.”
Daniel LaRusso is a distraught and desperate man at the start of Season Five of “Cobra Kai,” premiering Sept. 9 on Netflix.
And with good reason: Daniel (Ralph Macchio), Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and their karate students suffered a devastating defeat to Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) and Cobra Kai in the All Valley Karate Tournament during the fourth-season finale. Silver, who double-crossed his friend and partner John Kreese (Martin Kove) by having him sent to jail, now aims to build his power and influence by expanding the Cobra Kai dojo throughout the Valley.
(There is profanity in the trailer below.)
Daniel had agreed to shut down his dojo if he lost the tournament. Still, he is refusing to go down without a(nother) fight. He brings in his “Karate Kid Part II” nemesis-turned-ally, Chozen Toguchi (Yuji Okumoto), and makes it his mission to stop Silver. That mission becomes an obsession.
“LaRusso is the only one who really sees Terry Silver for who he is,” Macchio told TODAY in a joint Zoom interview with Zabka. “So, often when you’re the only one who could see the truth, to everyone else you look like the crazy person.”
That dilemma allowed Macchio to tap into a “depth and dimension” to his character that he said he hadn’t explored as much in previous seasons.
“It was kind of fun to go down that path and play, you know, those layers in the character of his desperation, seemingly becoming unhinged and losing his grip on many areas of his life and to a point where he goes down a dark road and is rudderless and needs all his friends and people to come together,” he said.
Johnny is on his own path as Season Five begins — a path that does not include karate. After reconciling with his son, Robby Keene (Tanner Buchanan), the two head to Mexico and look for Johnny’s protégé, Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña), who is attempting to track down his father.
Johnny is trying to “save Miguel from himself or whatever bad things might be out there,” Zabka said. “In the meantime, he’s on a road trip with his son trying to give him a good, fun time in Mexico, Johnny style.”
“Cobra Kai” continues to draw inspiration from the “Karate Kid” trilogy of films for the new season. Chozen returns following a handful of appearances in Seasons Three and Four (and shines with his mix of intensity and surprising sense of humor), while “Karate Kid Part III” villain Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan) makes his “Cobra Kai” debut.
Macchio praised the show’s writers for the way they have revived the characters from the “Karate Kid” films by adding “layers” to them and sending them “in different directions than you would expect that help inform the ‘Cobra Kai’ story as a whole.”
Macchio has relished the opportunity to work again with his former co-stars, saying they have all brought their “A-game” to their performances.
“Some of these folks I hadn’t seen in 20-something years. To work with Yuji and Tamlyn (Tomita, who reprised her role of Kumiko from “The Karate Kid Part II” in Season Three) and, you know, Sean and now Thomas Ian Griffith, it’s — I never would have thought, certainly with the “Karate Kid III” crew, that we’d ever definitely be back together again,” he said.
“Cobra Kai” represents the first time that Zabka’s Johnny, who had little screen time in the second “Karate Kid” movie and was absent from the third film, has been introduced to some of these characters.
“I’m a fan of theirs from the movies and I know who they are in the universe, but Johnny never had any contact with these guys. Even Silver — he doesn’t know who the hell Terry Silver is. He still doesn’t quite realize that he’s that dangerous,” he explained.
Zabka loves the moments that Johnny shares with Chozen this season, “getting to meet him and them sharing stories.”
“But they don’t have any shared experience or anything. They have no gripes with each other. So it’s really fun to play and to watch these two characters that we as the audience have a perspective of.”
Not only has “Cobra Kai” brought back most of the major characters from the “Karate Kid” films during its run, it has also frequently paid its respects to the late Pat Morita, who played Daniel’s sensei and father figure, Mr. Miyagi. In addition to the “Karate Kid” trilogy that featured Macchio, Morita also had a lead role in “The Next Karate Kid,” which co-starred Hilary Swank — years before she won her two Oscars — as his new pupil.
There’s been talk in the past of adding Swank to the “Cobra Kai” mix; co-creator Hayden Schlossberg teased earlier this year during a Deadline Contenders Television panel, “Anything is possible. I always say if you’re a fan of ‘The Next Karate Kid’ and you want to see Julie Pierce who Hilary Swank played, we’re the show to watch to see if that happens. … Julie Pierce is one of the toys in the toy chest so we’ll see.”
Macchio commented on the discussion surrounding Swank’s potential involvement in the series during the interview with TODAY.
“Anyone who knew Miyagi or Miyagi interacted with is part of the canon that we could pull from. And so, yeah, that’s one of the big ones that’s left,” he said. “So there has been conversation. I don’t know how engaging it’s been, to what point, but, sure. I mean, listen, every road they’ve gone down to bring an OG character back has led to more areas of story that enhance many of the characters. So, why not? We’ll see.”
“She lives in the universe. She’s somewhere,” Zabka chimed in. “Is she near Ventura Boulevard? We don’t know. Or is she in Europe somewhere? You know? We don’t know. It’s a great question. We shall see.” (If you feel compelled to catch up on “The Next Karate Kid” in case Swank does show up eventually, it’s currently streaming on Netflix.)
Whenever a “Karate Kid” character is incorporated into the show, the actors emphasized, it must be done in a way that bolsters the stories being told.
“It’s not like the thing hinges on having, you know, new nostalgic drops in the show,” Zabka said. “It’ll be a matter of the right time, the right place, the right plot point, the honest moment where that’s an exciting, awesome reveal. There’s always that opportunity and potential.”
While Netflix hasn’t officially announced a Season Six renewal for “Cobra Kai,” both Zabka and Macchio are hopeful for what’s to come for the show.
“The characters are growing, the stories ballooned, we’ve got a new springboard to what’s coming next that’s awesome,” Zabka hinted.
“There’s more story to tell, the writers have plenty of new ideas and where they see it going. And it’s a matter of whether it’s in the cards,” Macchio said. “We’re very hopeful that we get to continue to do this, and as long as it’s organic and not too much shark jumping, we will do that. And then we could spin it off and go other places potentially.”