“Strike hard. Strike fast. No mercy.” If those words sound familiar, that’s because it was the motto of the infamous Cobra Kai dojo that made Daniel LaRusso’s life a living hell in the classic 1984 movie, The Karate Kid. Of course, that movie ended with Daniel defeating Cobra Kai’s star pupil, Johnny Lawrence, with a crane kick to the head. Daniel and his sensai, the lovable Mr. Miyagi, would go on to have more adventures together in Karate Kid II and III, but what ever became of Johnny?
Well, Karate Kid fans are finally going to get their answer with Cobra Kai, a new spinoff series that sees Ralph Macchio and William Zabka once again playing Daniel and Johnny, respectively, 34 years later. Here’s everything you need to know about it.
What is it?
Cobra Kai is a spinoff/sequel to the original Karate Kid movie. However, it’s not a movie but rather a series produced by the paid streaming service YouTube Red. Set 30 years after Daniel and Johnny’s match at the Under-18 All-Valley Karate Tournament, the series will focus on Johnny as he tries to pick himself up from a downward life spiral and reopen the Cobra Kai dojo. The series is being described as a dramedy and this is evident in the official trailer, as the overall tone feels much more comedic than the Karate Kid films. That being said, expect there to still be quite a bit of dramatic storytelling, as well as a long-awaited rematch between arch-rivals Daniel and Johnny.
Who’s Behind It?
Cobra Kai’s comedic bent makes sense when you take into account who’s part of the creative team. Hot Tub Time Machine’s Josh Heald, as well as the duo behind Harold & Kumar – Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossber – are all serving as the executive producers and principal writers for the series. They are also directing most of the episodes.
In a statement last August when the series was announced, the team said Cobra Kai “will be a true continuation of the original films — packed with comedy, heart, and thrilling fight scenes. We can’t wait to reignite the LaRusso-Lawrence rivalry.”
What’s Johnny Been Up To?
Judging by the footage shown so far, not a whole lot. The last time we saw Johnny was at the beginning of The Karate Kid Part II, when his belligerent sensai Kreese (Martin Kove) broke Johnny’s second place trophy and tried to choke him out. Mr. Miyagi stepped in to help and Johnny ended up leaving Daniel alone from that point on.
The series picks up with Johnny still living in the San Fernando Valley, though he’s pretty down on his luck these days. After seeing how successful Daniel has become in middle-age, Johnny decides to seek redemption by reopening the Cobra Kai dojo and training a new class of students, though the jury is still out on whether he’ll be as brutal a teacher as Kreese was.
What’s Going On With Daniel?
The last time we saw Daniel, in The Karate Kid Part III, he had seemingly defeated Cobra Kai for good by defending his All-Valley title against Kreese and his Vietnam vet pal Terry Silver’s new Johnny-like protege. Since then, Daniel has built a pretty good life for himself down in the Valley, running a number of successful car dealerships — complete with karate-inspired advertising — and is a family man to boot. Of course, Daniel isn’t too keen on the idea of Johnny bringing Cobra Kai back from the dead, so the series will see him training for another bout against his former rival.
Is Anyone Else From The Original Cast Returning?
While things could change, it looks like Macchio and Zabka are the only two Karate Kid alums returning for Cobra Kai (both actors are also serving as executive producers). We’re still hopeful that with the focus on the Cobra Kai dojo, characters such as Terry Silver or Kreese will return, but so far nothing has been confirmed.
In other words, no, Elizabeth Shue isn’t in it. Yes, we’re disappointed too.
Other Noteworthy Characters
Fortunately, what Cobra Kai lacks in familiar characters it more than makes up for in new faces. Though the main focus of the series will be on Daniel and Johnny’s rivalry, Cobra Kai will have some other subplots going on. Believe it or not, Johnny has an estranged son named Robby (played by Tanner Buchanan) who is out to prove he’s nothing like his father. Daniel’s family also have a part to play, with Courtney Henggeler playing Daniel’s wife and business partner, Amanda, while Mary Mouser (Freakish) plays their daughter, Samantha.
Additionally, Xolo Maridueña (Parenthood) will have a substantial role as Miguel Diaz, a high school student who runs afoul of some bullies (not unlike Daniel’s situation in the original movie) and ends up being taken under Johnny’s wing. Finally, Cobra Kai will feature veteran actor Ed Asner as Johnny’s (likely very crotchety) stepfather, Sid Weinberg.
Why A TV Series And Not A Movie?
There have been five Karate Kid movies, with Cobra Kai marking the first time the series has transitioned into television. So why the switch? According to YouTube Global Head of Original Content Susanne Daniels, after more than 30 years of people quoting “Sweep the leg” and “Wax on, wax off,” a switch in formats feels like the right move for the Karate Kid franchise:
“What’s interesting, I find, is that it doesn’t have to be a hit movie,” Daniels told /Film at the Television Critics Association back in January. “A hit movie doesn’t necessarily mean a hit TV series. Clueless is a movie I still like and still watch. The TV version of it wasn’t great, I thought, all due respect to Amy Heckerling. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was not a great movie and Joss [Whedon] did a great job making the series. It’s about finding the right movie and finding the right director/producer/writer team that understands how to take the movie and make it into a series franchise.”
How Many Episodes Are There?
The first season will have 10 half-hour long episodes, though you could also look at it as a 5-hour movie, making Cobra Kai the longest in the franchise by a wide margin.
When Does It Come Out?
Cobra Kai will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 24 before premiering on YouTube Red on May 2. It’s unclear at this time if the series will follow a weekly release schedule or dump all the episodes online at once on May 2.
Will It Be Available Outside The United States?
This is the question we’re really trying to make sense of at the moment. YouTube Red has been releasing original programming since 2016 but the service is still not in the same tier as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime when it comes to must-watch TV. The main problem working against Cobra Kai is that it looks like its viewership will be limited based on which countries YouTube Red is currently available in.
Right now, YouTube Red is only available in 5 countries: Australia, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, and the United States. As a Canadian-based outlet, we’re not even sure if we’ll be able to watch Cobra Kai! There’s also the issue of having to have YouTube Red subscription to watch it in the first place, meaning that if you really want to watch it, be prepared to fork over $10 a month to YouTube.
Does It Have Any Connections To The Reboot?
Nope! While it would technically be possible to have Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith, who starred in the 2010 Karate Kid remake, show up in Cobra Kai, neither actor is set to make an appearance. That being said, it’s always possible someone will make an offhand comment about a Kung Fu master and his student from Beijing, but that would be the extent of any connections to the reboot.
Will We See Any Crane Kicks?
We have no idea! But considering Daniel makes reference to having defeated Johnny by kicking him in the head in the Cobra Kai trailer, we’re 99% sure we’ll see the move attempted at some point over the show’s 10 episodes.