After the debut of Cobra Kai’s third season on Netflix at the beginning of 2021, fans immediately began wondering about season 4. The show was actually renewed for a fourth season before season 3 even premiered. but given how season 3 ended, the excitement for more has been amplified. HollywoodLife chatted EXCLUSIVELY with Cobra Kai creators Jon Hurwitz, Josh Heald, and Hayden Schlossberg about the biggest moments of season 3 and what’s coming in season 4.
The end of season 3 featured the epic team-up of rivals Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso. Heald teased that fans are in for quite a “journey” in season 4 with these two. Plus, the creators weighed in the Sam and Tory rivalry, Miguel’s recovery, and their long-term plans for the series.
Season 3 ended with the long-awaited team-up of Johnny and Daniel. Was this always the plan?
Jon Hurwitz: This was the plan from the beginning. I mean, we knew that we were going to start the show the way that we did in season 1 reigniting that rivalry between Johnny and Daniel. In our original pitch for the show, we talked about how season 2 would be sort of dojo versus dojo, Johnny versus Daniel, and then that would sort of be the theme of what was going on in season 2. But the audience and we love seeing these guys act together. You have these moments in the first couple seasons where these guys are seemingly getting along and maybe they’re about to make that step and be friends and team up in different ways. But they keep getting in their own way. Once we got into the writers’ room for season 3 we knew, especially after the way season 2 ended in such a depressing place with the world basically exploding all around everybody, we thought why not end season 3 with what we’ve all been waiting for — these guys teaming up and ready for action.
Now they’re working together, which changes the dynamic between Johnny and Daniel. What can you say about their journey together going forward?
Josh Heald: Well, we’ve seen them try to put aside their differences a few times in the series. Those earliest moments it’s like touching a hot stove, and they recoil away from one another. And then the next time they’re used to how hot it is, and they’re able to kind of stay closer a little bit longer before it all goes to hell. It was necessary to have those moments to warm them up to each other, see what they know about the other that pushes their buttons, try to go into this arrangement with a mindset of knowing what you’re getting into. The hope is that these guys, with this set of circumstances, can put aside their differences and actually stay on a path for longer than a moment or two. Because we’ve seen it explode and fall apart very quickly on occasion. This does feel like the set of circumstances that these two were destined to bury the hatchet over. But that being said, he’s still Daniel and he’s still Johnny. They each have a pretty decided upon and distinct mindset and point of view that’s going to be challenging the other at times and the audience is in for a journey in season 4 to see: can they make this work?
When we talk about rivalries, we have to talk about Sam and Tory. Season 3 built up to that epic confrontation between them, and even Tori says this isn’t over. Are you mirroring Tori and Sam after Johnny and Daniel in a sense?
Hayden Schlossberg: I think a little bit we try to give it its own contemporary spin. We try to acknowledge that it may be a little bit different for a girl like Sam, as opposed to a guy like Daniel back in the ’80s. We like to explore some of the PTSD that you can have from being in a big, dramatic incident that makes it where everybody in high school is looking at you in a different way. We wanted to have this rivalry have its own unique characteristics, but it definitely brings you back to that 1980s rivalry. You have Sam, who is totally pro-Mr. Miyagi and has learned from that style of karate, and then you have somebody like Tory, who seems like she’s always had a bit of a chip on her shoulder and found her way into Cobra Kai, which is probably the worst place for her. It almost justifies her anger. But for her, it feels good. It feels like it’s cathartic, and it leads to this awesome battle royale at the end of the season, which we loved.
I feel like it gives her control, which she doesn’t have a lot of elsewhere.
Hayden Schlossberg: That’s the key, and we’re still peeling the onions of that character. But I think for us, both sides provide a certain type of therapy for kids who are going through trouble. Miyagi-do kind of gives you this inner peace and focus. Cobra Kai is all about taking all the pain that you have and pushing it outside. So if you’re going through trouble like Tory is, it’s in some ways the perfect thing because it makes her forget about her problems, but then it makes her a problem to other people, so it leads to drama.
I asked Peyton and Mary this, but is there hope for these two to ever not be enemies?
Jon Hurwitz: You know, if Johnny and Daniel can come together, then it’s possible that Sam and Tory could come together. I mean, we’ll see if things work out with Johnny and Daniel, of course. There’s clearly something between these two young women, and we’re enjoying the ride. We’re enjoying seeing where it can go. But they could not be more bitter enemies and rivals. I think a lot of times people like to see progress and growth between people in a relationship like this.
Johnny is stuck in between a rock and a hard place with all of this because there’s the Robby element to all of it. Going forward, how will Johnny reckon with Robby siding with Kreese now that Johnny and Daniel are going against Kreese?
Josh Heald: The family and generational relationships on our show can be very pulpy at times, but they’re always rooted in the reality of sometimes kids don’t want anything to do with their parents for whatever reason. Now, Johnny and Robby are an extreme example of that. He’s a kid who just feels like this guy didn’t care about me when I was growing up, and he grew up with that pain and hated his father. We know that Johnny has a lot of regrets, and Johnny had some arrested development and felt like he wasn’t capable of being a good father. So rather than try, he felt like his absence was stronger, and obviously has lived to regret that. We’ve seen these baby steps with their relationship, kind of like the fiery relationship between Daniel and Johnny where we’ve seen moments where it might work out, and it can work out. In moments of crisis, we’ve seen Robby turn to his father for help. So there is that basic instinct of I need an adult. For Robby, that adult has been 3 different adults so far in this series. He’s found a father figure in Daniel and lost a father figure in Daniel. He’s rekindled a brief relationship with his father and felt abandoned. We’ve currently found him now with the Emperor on the dark side, who’s indoctrinated him to the ways of his will. When you’re a teenager, it’s a lot easier to change your mind and to be influenced by a mindset and by a position of strength that appeals to your interests at that time. I think Robby is going through a lot right now and is going through a lot of anger. The Cobra Kai mentality supports that and says, “You should be angry, and you should do something with your anger.” It is an interesting, reverse psychology of something that might be a little bit more zen and healthy, and let’s work through your anger and try to make the anger go away, which is probably more Miyagi-do. The relationship has never been hotter and more tense between father and son. Even between Daniel and Robby. They both have love for this kid, and he’s right at the center of this war. It’s certainly something that we’ll be playing with going forward.
Are we ever going to get some more backstory on Amanda?
Hayden Schlossberg: Well, I’ll tell you, we know some of that backstory. Sometimes you have to write scenes, and to understand where the character’s coming from, you have to create the backstory. It may be because there wasn’t room and maybe because we’re waiting for the right moment, but we’ve thought about it. Our show is a half-hour. It’s like Game of Thrones, but in the half-hour version of all these characters and all these storylines. We start each season wanting just every character to have their moment, and not just one moment, but their storyline and to tell a storyline over 10 episodes. It’s not going to be every episode where you’re going to see her side of the story, but we pick and choose those moments throughout the season. We’re definitely doing that in season 4. If we were fans, we’d be wondering, how did Daniel and Amanda meet? How is she going to react to seeing her house just completely torn apart? We have all those thoughts and people will see if we explore them in season 4. We think about all that stuff, too. We do have some specific thoughts about her backstory that we think fans will like if it comes out.
Also, I have to talk about Hawk. Is the mohawk going to keep getting bigger with each season?
Jon Hurwitz: The plan is for him to become more mohawk than human. So eventually, I think it may have its own dojo at some point. The bottom line is that the journey of Eli/Hawk is one of our favorite things that we’ve done on Cobra Kai. Just when you think back to when you meet that character in the very beginning of season 1, and then you see where he’s gone over the course of 3 years. It’s been really fun to watch Jacob Bertrand just embody this character. When we were casting this role, it was so hard to find an actor who was able to truly embody Eli and truly embody Hawk. A lot of the actors that were coming in weren’t nailing either of them. When Jacob came in, I just remember seeing the Eli and just being like, oh, wow, like I feel for this kid. He’s just so great. And then he had the wrong sides for the later scene that were not quite what Hawk was, so he’d prepared for the wrong thing. We’re like, wait, you need the new pages. He’s like, okay, I’ll be back. He left for five minutes, came back, and he was off-book. He was just Hawk. He was exactly the guy that you see today. Few actors could pull off what Jacob does, and we love where things ended with him in season 3, but going into season 4, there’s a lot of history there. It’s not like Johnny loves him right now. It’s not like Daniel loves him. A lot of the kids have issues with him. Yes, he turned in the fight and kind of helped save the day. He and Demetri are kind of reconnecting, but he has a fun journey ahead in season 4.
When it comes to Miguel, he went on a hell of a journey and recovered physically from his fall. In season 4, will we continue to see the emotional aftershocks of the injury and that fight?
Josh Heald: The show is so serialized that we really don’t reboot or start a new story in the successive season without continuing exactly from where we left off. We’ve done that with every season so far in terms of what were the stakes and how far did we get. It’s like, okay, we’ve defeated the monster but there’s another one right over the hill. That’s applicable to every character. I think for Miguel, he had this big season of physical transformation and learning to overcome his physical injuries and starting to get back into what he loved, but everything’s different now. Relationships are all different. Obviously, there’s the giant fight where he showed that he’s going to come out of that unscathed in terms of physical injury, but we look at all the breadcrumbs that we’re laying as we go. Sometimes it’s worth looping back to some or remembering that some of them were there to continue to tell a story that is to come. Because going through something traumatic like that it’s probably not like, okay, that’s in my past. I never have to think about that again. I had a back injury last year myself, which was remarkable. I was texting Xolo [Maridueña] from the hospital moments after we had wrapped the season saying, well, isn’t this ironic. Even though I’m better, it’s something that will come up time and time again. I think you deal with your choices and with the actions of the past as you move forward, and we definitely will with Miguel as well.
Some showrunners know the endings of their shows from the very beginning. Do you know how you want to end Cobra Kai eventually?
Hayden Schlossberg: I think we know where we want it to end and some specifics of that. We had that in our minds from the very beginning, and we’ve been talking about it for years. The path to get there is the fluid thing and how many seasons is it. People ask us and we don’t have a six-season plan for the show. We just kind of started out knowing what our first season was going to be, setting up a second season, and then we had ideas in our head for where the show could go with different stories and where we would want our main characters to be at the end. In our minds, we are thinking about, as each season is finished, you have a greater focus of how you’re going to reach that goal. We’re huge hardcore Karate Kid fans. We don’t want to just be making a story for no reason. It has to be great. It has to be something that’s fun for us. But we feel like we’re getting something out of it, and we feel like we have a few more seasons of fun, exciting story to tell to get to that place that we’ve been planning since the beginning. Our hope is that along the way, we’ve really built this Karate Kid universe out even more and reinvigorated the fan base so that even though the show may be done in a couple of years, there are other fans out there, including us, that may say, well, what if there’s a way to explore this other aspect of the universe or something like that in another show or movie. We love the franchise, and we think that the themes of The Karate Kid are just evergreen and will be relevant 5 years from now and 10 years from now. But this is a particular story that we set up between Johnny and Daniel and their rivalry, and we know that you could have them come together and apart and come together and apart and do different things with it, but we don’t want it to become predictable or tiring. We want everything to be fresh and exciting. We’re very excited about season 4. We have the whole thing planned out and, and we know where season 5 would go. We have an idea of where it’s all heading, so our hope is we just get to play it out and have a lot of fun in this franchise until we get to that end.