The films and TV shows released in the 1980s were much less complicated than the ones coming out these days. There was a clear line that distinguished the good from the bad, and classical underdog stories often received special attention. ‘The Karate Kid’ (1984) is an excellent example of this. It’s a quintessentially 1980s story in which heroes and villains are well defined.
So, when the news of ‘Cobra Kai’ first came out, the fans, who grew up on the original film and its admittedly less-than-stellar sequels, were understandably tentative. But the TV series has proven their fears primarily wrong. It turns all the classic tropes that the original film used on their heads and yet embraces its campy, nostalgic, and sometimes ridiculous narrative.
Set 34 years after Daniel LaRusso’s (Ralph Macchio) victory over Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) in the 1984 All-Valley Karate Tournament, ‘Cobra Kai’ season 1 follows the latter’s attempt to build back the eponymous dojo, which eventually brings him into conflict with his old karate rival. In season 2, Daniel restarts Miyagi-Do, while John Kreese (Martin Kove) gradually takes over Cobra Kai. The season ends with a violent showdown between the students of the two dojos, leaving Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) on life support, Robby (Tanner Buchanan) on the run, and Sam (Mary Mouser) traumatized. Here is everything you need to know about the third season of ‘Cobra Kai.’ SPOILERS AHEAD.
Miguel Overcomes Personal Obstacles
In the season 3 premiere, titled ‘Aftermath,’ the domino effect of the vicious brawl between the two dojos is felt by everyone involved, but none more than Miguel’s family, who helplessly watch as the boy spends a couple of weeks on life support. In his dream, Miguel wins a karate competition and wakes up in the real world afterward. But before his family can truly celebrate that he is out of a coma, Miguel’s doctor learns that the boy can’t feel below his ankles.
Miguel feels that Johnny’s lessons about mercy ultimately failed him during the school brawl. But his anger and frustration toward his sensei gradually evaporate as Johnny devotes himself to Miguel’s well-being. He arranges money for the young man’s surgery and uses characteristic gruffness and tough love to help Miguel move along the way to full recovery.
Meanwhile, after Miguel and Tory (Peyton List) break up, he and Sam grow close, which inevitably leads to a long-awaited interaction between Miguel and Daniel. It ends with both of them realizing the similarities between their roots.
Robby Joins Cobra Kai
With Robby absconding at the beginning of the series, Daniel becomes deeply worried about him. He asks for Johnny’s help to locate his son, and they initially agree to work together. But, as always, the long history of antagonism doesn’t let either of them see beyond their prejudices. Daniel later manages to convince Robby to stop running with the help of the latter’s mother, but before he can make the boy understand that his best option now is to surrender to the authorities, the police arrive and arrest him.
In juvie, Robby gets into fights with fellow inmates. Both his father and Daniel visit him and try to get through to him, but Robby rebuffs their attempts. After losing Miguel, Kreese knows that Cobra Kai needs an alternative. So, he also visits the boy and teaches him the Cobra Kai method of dealing with issues. After Robby gets out of the juvie, he mistakenly comes to believe that Sam is once more cheating on him. Towards the end of the season, he joins Cobra Kai.
Ali Mills Appears and Change the Boys’ Lives Once More
Ali Mills (Elizabeth Shue) has been an important figure in ‘The Karate Kid’ universe even though she was never seen again after the first film. In the season 2 finale, she sends a friend request to Johnny. In season 3, they begin chatting, which leads to her first appearance in the show in ‘Feel the Night’ (season 3 episode 9). Ali comes back to Los Angeles and reunites with Johnny and Daniel. She also meets Daniel’s wife, Amanda (Courtney Henggeler), and the two women hit it off splendidly. With this encounter, the show provides a sense of closure to both the audience and all the characters involved.
Daniel’s Journey Back to Japan
After the school brawl, Daniel and Amanda’s car dealership has suffered heavy losses, forcing them to seriously entertain an offer of a buyout. Daniel travels to Japan to convince the executives of the Japanese car importer Doyona International not to nullify their contract with him. Initially unsuccessful, he decides to visit Mr. Miyagi’s native Tomi Village in Okinawa. Much to his surprise, the village has been turned into a mall. He runs into Kumiko (‘The Karate Kid Part II’) and later reconciles with his former rival Chozen.
Kumiko shows him the letters that Mr. Miyagi sent to her aunt. In his final letter, Mr. Miyagi wrote about what Daniel and his family meant to him. Later, Kumiko introduces him to a grown-up Yuna, the young girl Daniel saved during a typhoon. It turns out that Yuna is now the Senior Vice President of Sales for Doyona International, and she happily promises that she will do what she can to help Daniel with his business. Daniel’s return to Japan solves not only some of his personal issues but also a professional one.
Johnny and Daniel Learn the Value of co-operation and a New Deal
Following the school brawl, Daniel shuts down Miyagi-Do. Meanwhile, Sam deals with the trauma of physical and emotional scars she received during her fight with Tory. Without telling her father, Sam begins training with other Miyagi-Do students. In episode 5, during a confrontation at a Golf N’ Stuff, Hawk breaks his former friend Demetri’s arm, further traumatizing Sam.
Kreese starts recruiting athletes for his dojo. Miguel quits Cobra Kai after learning about the Golf N’ Stuff fight. Johnny forms a new dojo, Eagle’s Fang Karate, with Miguel and the students that Kreese rejected. Sam and Miguel convince the local city council to keep hosting the all-valley tournament. While Daniel, Johnny, Ali, and Amanda attend a Christmas party together, the students of Miyagi-Do and Eagle’s Fang decide to work together. This is when the Cobra Kai attacks. Sam overcomes her fears and defeats Tory, and Hawk switches sides, finally reuniting with his friends.
Daniel and Johnny find about the incident separately and visit the Cobra Kai dojo. Johnny arrives first, and he and Kreese fight. After Johnny accidentally hurts his son, he becomes distracted. Kreese takes the opportunity and starts choking Johnny. Daniel shows up and, after a brief fight, has Kreese kneeling in front of him. But he spares the other man after Miguel and Sam arrive. Johnny and Daniel warn Kreese to stay away from their children. In response, Kreese tells them that Cobra Kai will stop existing if his students lose the next all-valley tournament. As the season ends, Daniel and Johnny merge Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang.
The Return of Terry Silver
Kreese is the main antagonist of the season, and the series explores his troubled past through flashback scenes. He was sent to Vietnam, where the special forces recruited him. The enemy captured his unit because Kreese didn’t detonate an explosive device as one of his friends was within the blast radius. The captives were later made to fight each other over a snake pit. When his friend Twig was selected, Kreese volunteered instead and fought and caused the death of the unit’s captain. Twig is revealed to be Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), the co-founder of Cobra Kai. In one of the final scenes of the season, Kreese reaches out to his old friend for help.