Cobra Kai is an American martial arts comedy-drama streaming television series and a sequel to the original The Karate Kid films by Robert Mark Kamen. The series was created by Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, and stars Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, who reprise their roles as Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence from the 1984 film The Karate Kid. Set 34 years later, Cobra Kai re-examines the “Miyagi-Verse” narrative from Johnny’s point of view, his decision to reopen the Cobra Kai karate dojo, and the rekindling of his old rivalry with Daniel. Cobra Kai also stars Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni DeCenzo, Martin Kove, Peyton List, Vanessa Rubio, and Thomas Ian Griffith.
The series has high viewership on both YouTube and Netflix, and has been met with critical acclaim. The third season also received the nomination for ‘Outstanding Comedy Series’ at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards. The first season launched on YouTube Red in 2018, with a second season following in 2019. After production of season three was completed, YouTube decided to stop producing scripted original programming, leaving the show without a home. Netflix acquired the series in June 2020, and released the third season on January 1, 2021. Netflix renewed the series for a fourth season, which released on December 31, 2021. In August 2021, ahead of the fourth season premiere, the series was renewed for a fifth season.
Thirty-four years after being defeated by Daniel LaRusso in the 1984 All-Valley Karate Tournament, Johnny Lawrence, now in his 50s, works as a part-time handyman and lives in an apartment in Reseda, Los Angeles, having fallen far from the wealthy lifestyle in Encino that he had been accustomed to growing up. He has a son named Robby from a previous relationship whom he abandoned following his birth. After losing his job due to an argument with one of his clients, a down-and-out Johnny uses karate to defend his new teenage neighbor Miguel Diaz from a group of bullies. Initially reluctant, Johnny agrees to train Miguel in karate and decides to reopen the Cobra Kai karate dojo as a chance to recapture his past; however, this act reawakens his rivalry with Daniel, who is now the owner of a highly successful car dealership chain, is married to co-owner Amanda, and has two children: Samantha and Anthony. Daniel is finally living the wealthy lifestyle he envied as a kid when he lived in Reseda. However, after his friend and mentor Mr. Miyagi died, Daniel’s struggle to meaningfully connect with his children has disrupted the balance in his life. Meanwhile, his mother Lucille, his other source of support, has a complicated relationship with Amanda.
Johnny’s dojo attracts a group of bullied social outcasts who find camaraderie and self-confidence under his tutelage, a marked contrast to the kind of students Johnny and his friends were when training in the original Cobra Kai run by John Kreese. Johnny develops a bond with Miguel in a manner that resembles the relationship between Daniel and Mr. Miyagi. Cobra Kai’s philosophy, however, remains mostly unchanged, though Johnny tries to infuse it with more honor than Kreese did. Thus, Miguel develops into a very different kind of student than Daniel, or even Johnny, was; he also begins dating Samantha.
As a means of revenge against his estranged father, Robby convinces Amanda to hire him for a position at the LaRusso Auto dealership and develops a close friendship with Daniel, who is initially unaware of Robby’s parentage. He even studies Mr. Miyagi’s form of Karate with Daniel and befriends and eventually starts dating Samantha after her breakup with Miguel. She eventually joins her father’s dojo, along with some Cobra Kai defectors. Miguel later begins dating a new Cobra Kai student, Tory Nichols, who becomes Sam’s arch-rival. Johnny’s efforts to reform Cobra Kai are threatened by the unexpected reappearance of Kreese, who aspires to bring the dojo back to its originally ruthless form while instigating further conflict between the rival dojos.
The story’s development revolves around these primary relationships, which lead to conflicts that are ultimately the product of Daniel and Johnny’s inability to move away from the past.