While Cobra Kai season one felt like it could have stood on its own, season two is putting down some roots. The new season hits YouTube Premium today and continues the story of Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka).
Decades after their 1984 showdown in The Karate Kid, they’re still feuding, and each is running their own karate dojo.
The second season has more character development and surprises for the two stars as well as the younger cast members, who really come into their own. Plus, like season one, it’s got a shockingly awesome cliffhanger and many crowd-pleasing nods back to the original films.
A few weeks back, we talked to Macchio about the new season’s intentions, that cliffhanger, and one surprising link back to the original Karate Kid series.
io9: The first season, to me, felt like, “If we don’t get a second season, this is everything we’ve got.” But watching season two, I really felt like the story was digging in for the long haul. It’s really developing the characters and setting a bar for much more to come. Was that sort of the mantra the whole way through? Am I taking the right thing away from the season?
Ralph Macchio: Yes, that’s the dead-on right take away and it’s great to hear because you’re one of the first I’m talking to that didn’t work on the show, that has seen the whole show. It’s really cool.
Listen, we always felt we wanted it to go on for several seasons. Whether that’s three, five, seven, or 15? I don’t know. At what point are we going to run out of story, because there always comes that place in a series where you don’t want to overstay your welcome? [That said], it was always designed to end [each] season, like you do with these serialised shows, and I think we succeeded in season two, where the fans will revolt if they say “OK, it’s over now.”
You’ve seen episode 10 which is, on the budget we had and the amount of time we had, epic what they were able to achieve. This is not a big budget show. And those kids busted their butts. We all did. Everybody worked very, very hard.
Yes. Dig deeper in the characters, create more obstacles. I mean, where does it go? You almost have to scale back and recenter the core to move forward. It’s a karate soap opera. It’s the Capulets and the Montagues. It’s Romeo and Juliet with the pop culture sprinkled in, the flashbacks, the Easter eggs, cameos, and surprise castings that hopefully will keep everybody smiling.
io9: One of the episodes talks very directly about the events of The Karate Kid Part 3, even going so far as Daniel saying he’s embarrassed by his actions in it. Does that in any way correlate to your feelings about that movie or is it more a joke because most people see that as the lesser of the three films?
Macchio: Hayden Schlossberg, one of our creators, says one of his favourite lines in season two is when [my daughter says] “How come you never mention this to me before?” And I say “It’s not something I’m proud of.” [He thinks] it’s like me saying “Why don’t you talk about Karate Kid 3 more” and that it’s not something I’m proud of. It’s funny because there’s a parallel there.
Karate Kid 3 was one of those movies that the script never came together the way you would have hoped, especially in comparison. The first one is the gem and the second one is a very good sequel. But, that being said these guys love elements of Karate Kid 3. They use it in the in season one with the whole Terry Silver mention and they use it here.
I remember when I read the script and I saw that whole scene. It flashes back and says “I was once Cobra Kai.” I didn’t even remember it. And, as a matter of fact when I watched that episode with my wife and I say “I was once Cobra Kai” she just turned and yelled at me “No he wasn’t!” And I said “Wait a second” because a lot of people didn’t see that movie or they don’t remember it as much. It just shows there’s so much great stuff to mine out of this franchise that works in the series Cobra Kai.
And that’s a very good scene. I think when he’s talking to the kids and trying to reach them and [say] “Even I slipped into this. [I] was bitten by the snake and it can make you angry and negative.” So no matter what you were once we can all be better now. And it’s a great teaching moment for LaRusso and those kids. And that’s when he gets back on his track in episode six.
io9: You mentioned the ending, which was great. What does potentially adding Ali [Elizabeth Shue’s character from the first film, who contacts Johnny on Facebook in the final scene] back into the mix do, especially when you know Daniel and Johnny have so much fun drinking together and now that we have a common enemy in Cobra Kai? Obviously, you can’t spoil season three, but what kind of discussions have you had and what do you sort of see in your mind of how all those elements could work together?
Macchio: Well, listen, I gotta credit [executive producers] Jon [Hurwitz], Josh [Heald], and Hayden [Schlossberg]. We talk about ideas moving forward and certain elements of things moving forward but they do not disclose what they’re thinking of. Like, they know where they want the series to end. I don’t know how they want the series to end.
I have an idea but they are very careful and you have to be that way, because as you explore and open up different avenues for different characters, all of a sudden it’ll take you in a [new] direction. Just like when you have an actor come in and they’re a breakout character. Now you have a place to write that you didn’t think you had.
But overall, the global template of what they tease at the end of the season, obviously, what that’s going to be, and is [Ali] going to come back into this world and how is that going to be? That still has yet to be defined. And there are other discussions with other characters in other story areas. I think until they sit down in that room with the staff and really start putting it up on the wall, as they say, those discussions [won’t] really get deeper. So I don’t know exactly.
I let them know after watching season two certain things I’d like to see for Daniel. Places I’d like to go further with, and areas that I’d like to reconcile of maybe certain flaws and mistakes he’s made which is all part of life. We all make those mistakes and that’s why the show is working because you’re seeing these characters that have flaws.
And I know people like to see Johnny and Daniel get along for those short periods of time, but you also have to keep the balls up in the air. So it’s a fine line and [the producers] have a grasp on it like no one else. They really know the fans because they’re writing the show for themselves. They are the super fans.
Cobra Kai seasons one and two are now on YouTube Premium. Read more in the below articles.