Recapping the First Three Seasons of ‘Cobra Kai’

With Season 4 of Cobra Kai just a week away, let’s take a look back at the show’s first three seasons and where things left off.

The small-screen follow-up to the Karate Kid films, Cobra Kai has become a massive hit with a fourth season on the way and season five having already filmed. It’s one of the rare reboots to last and, with Season 4 around the corner, we take a quick look back at the show’s first three seasons and why each season has only continued to grow better than the last.

Season 1 (YouTube Red)

Where it all began. When Cobra Kai was first announced, it was being developed as a YouTube Red series, a service YouTube had begun to try and compete with streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu. The first season saw William Zabka return as Johnny Lawrence, alongside Ralph Macchio, who returns as Daniel LaRusso. The first season continues their rivalry from the films, showing that, despite the amount of time that has passed, Johnny hasn’t been able to get over what happened between the two of them. He’s a down-on-his-luck contractor, while LaRusso has built a name for himself as a car salesman. It isn’t until Johnny finds himself going to one of LaRusso’s facilities to get his car back that he’s forced to deal with his problems with LaRusso head-on. It’s ultimately this confrontation between the two that results in Johnny bringing back Cobra Kai, much to LaRusso’s dismay.

It’s through bringing back Cobra Kai that Johnny goes on to build a relationship with his neighbor, Miguel, who he soon ends up teaching karate. As his bond with Miguel grows stronger, his relationship with his own son, Robby, continues to decline. It only gets worse when Robby ends up working for LaRusso’s company and ultimately becoming his mentee. This strikes a cord in Johnny, of course, and when Robby decides to compete in the All Valley championship independently, using LaRusso’s teaching, Johnny finds himself both eager to protect Robby and yet see him win. Unfortunately, though, Miguel ends up using Robby’s injury from their fight against him during the final match and wins, injuring Robby and forcing Johnny to see the Cobra Kai of his past is not something to celebrate. The season ultimately ends with LaRusso opening up Miyagi-do, while Johnny is paid a surprise visit by John Kreese, who is ready to bring back the Cobra Kai of their past.

Season 2 (YouTube Red)

The show’s second season is ultimately where s**t hits the fan and it’s absolutely great. Season 2 is when Cobra Kai becomes dojo vs dojo, with both Johnny and LaRusso trying to outdo one another with their respective dojos. Following their win at the All Valley tournament, LaRusso is eager to spread the word about Miyagi-do in hopes it’ll drown out interest in Cobra Kai. Things only become worse when LaRusso learns Kreese is back in the fold.

The fight among the adults soon spills over onto the kids, as the students begin to fight for their respective dojos, with the Cobra Kai students often acting as bullies thanks to their “no mercy” training. The bullying tendencies are showcased best when some of the Cobra Kai students, led by Hawk, seek to destroy Miyagi-do and take Mr. Miyagi’s medal of honor in the process. As the season goes on, and the students begin to realize how violent Cobra Kai is making some of them, they opt to move to Miyagi-do where they’ll learn self-defense, rather than being trained to become merciless fighters who are taught to strike first.

We saw Miguel’s relationship with LaRusso’s daughter, Sam, implode after he got drunk during Season 1 and accidentally hit her. So, naturally, it isn’t surprising to see both characters enter new relationships in Season 1. Miguel finds solace in Tory, a fellow Cobra Kai student, while Sam begins to develop feelings for Johnny’s son, Robby, who her father has taken under his wing. Still, the tensions seems to only grow when Miguel tries to do the right thing and return Miyagi’s medal of honor, only for Robby to plant the medal in the yard and not tell Sam the truth.

When the students attend a party where both dojos are in attendance, Sam and Miguel briefly kiss. While it’s short, and both immediately realize their wrongdoing, it’s too late as Tory saw everything. This leads to her starting a full-on karate fight on the first day back at school, when she announces she’s coming for Sam over the intercom. Cobra Kai students go to back Tory up, while the Miyagi-do students go to Sam’s aide. Ultimately, the fight comes down to Tory vs Sam and Miguel vs Robby, as both boys attempt to stop the girls from fighting. It’s during this fight that Season 2 takes a huge turn.

While Sam and Tory continue their fight on the stairs, Robby and Miguel have moved up higher, where they continue to battle it out, all while trying to stop the main fight. Unfortunately, while Miguel opts to show mercy, something Johnny has been trying to teach at Cobra Kai after acknowledging his faults, Robby does the opposite. With his back turned, Robby knocks Miguel over the rail, with Miguel falling on the staircase below.

The season ends with Johnny trying to check on Miguel, only to find his mother insisting he stay away from her son — and also her, suggesting anything romantic between the two is officially over. While the LaRusso family ends up going to the hospital to collect Sam as she had to receive stitches because Tory stabbed her with her spiked-bracelet. At this point, we know Robby is on the run, and it’s unclear if Miguel will ever be able to walk again, let alone partake in karate.

Things only continue to get worse for Johnny as Kreese decides to take Cobra Kai from him. As he sees it, Miguel is in the hospital because he showed mercy. According to Kreese, it’s all Johnny’s fault, and Kreese wants to ensure the students are ready for the battle ahead of them. The season ends with Kreese making a mysterious call, followed by the teasing of Terry Silver’s return.

Season 3 (Netflix)

Enter Season 3…. and Terry Silver. It’s bad enough Kreese is back, but now, he’s brought Silver back to help him run Cobra Kai. Or at least, he finally succeeds in doing so after paying him a surprise visit at his house. As Silver later tells it, Kreese has reignited something within him and in him, something that made him want to return to Cobra Kai after so long.

A fair amount of the season is centered around Johnny helping Miguel to regain his strength and the ability to walk – in the ways only Johnny Lawrence can. One of the weirder bits of the season, though, comes as LaRusso finds his image to be tarnished after the public learns of Sam’s involvement in the fight that injured Miguel. This sends LaRusso on a journey – quite literally, as he heads to Japan – to try and fix his name and save his company. Along the way, he meets up with a few old friends from The Karate Kid: Part II: Chozen (Yuji Okumoto) and Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita). Somehow, he finds exact what he was looking for and manages to safe LaRusso Auto.

Season 3 also brings about the introduction of Eagle Fang Karate. (And yes, don’t you worry, there are plenty of jokes regarding the absurdity of the name and logo.) They might’ve lost Cobra Kai, but Johnny and Miguel are not willing to give up on those that need them. LaRusso, naturally, opposes to the new dojo, but Johnny soon proves he’s trying to be different from Cobra Kai. He understands his mistakes and wants to do right by his students, or at least those that’ll listen to him.

Just as both parties look to be getting their lives back on track, they learn the All Valley Tournament has been canceled. The reasoning behind the cancelation, of course, is due to the fight at the high school. However, Miguel (who is fully recovered) and Sam, are unwilling to see the tournament cancelled and take it upon themselves to fight for the tournament when the adults fail to sell its importance.

The third season also sees the return of Elisabeth Shue as Ali Mills, which naturally brings out the worst in both Johnny and LaRusso. While they continue to have their issues, by the end of the season the two mean have found they work best together. Which results in them teaming up their dojos to try and take down Cobra Kai following an attack by its students. This leaves Miyagi-do and Eagle Fang to work as a single unit, with both Johnny and LaRusso teaching them. It took three seasons, but the series allowed the two main characters to undergo tremendous growth. Even better? Some of the students seem to follow suit and switch dojos – including Hawk, who has decided to leave Cobra Kai behind him.

One can only help the fourth season doesn’t regress because the ending of Season 3 sets up a pretty stellar Season 4.

The fourth season of Cobra Kai debuts on Netflix on Dec. 31.

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