Warning: Major, major spoilers…
And that’s a wrap on Season 3 of Cobra Kai. After nearly two years of waiting, die-hard fans of the series are right back in the waiting room all over again. Look, it happens with every series. Don’t even get this writer started on Stranger Things.
How about that ending, though? LaRusso and Lawrence together, Kreese lording over an army, Robby gone Anakin. It’s a lot to stomach, admittedly, but through it all, we know you have questions. Questions that likely won’t be answered for awhile.
The good news is that The Wait is often the most exciting part of being a fan. This is the time we can start theorizing again, and Season 3 certainly clears the mat for it given all of those cameos and revelations. At this point, anything goes.
Knowing that makes this Wait all the more exhilarating, which is why we’re going all-in on the theories for Season 4. Like Lil’ LaRusso painting Miyagi’s fence, we attempted to cover everything that’s well within the reach of Cobra Kai.
So, wax-on, wax-off below.
Two Senseis, One Dojo (Future of Miyagi-Do)
At the end of Season 3, it seems as though Johnny and Daniel have forged an uneasy truce, combining their respective dojos into one super-dojo to match the frightening chaos energy of a Kreese-run Cobra Kai. But, how’s that going to work with the oil-and-water dynamic our longtime rivals have going on?
As much as we like to speculate on what other corners of the Karate Kid well the show will explore in Season 4, it’s also important to remember that it’s moving ahead with its own story, and next season will likely spend much of its real estate testing the limits of Johnny and Danny’s newfound detente. Will this alliance of necessity — and their mutual care for these kids — lead to a newfound friendship between the two? Or will their respective egos split them apart at a crucial moment for their students?
Both Lawrence and LaRusso have spent the bulk of the series at odds, rehashing their decades-old high school rivalry out of a sense of entropy more than anything. I think it’ll be really interesting if, now that the pendulum’s swinging the other way, they find a few more moments to bond.
That might not translate to their drastically different teaching styles, though — Daniel’s students flow like water, while Johnny teaches them to strike hard and show no mercy. That view might be softening a bit now that he’s seen how far Kreese takes the Cobra Kai philosphy, but heads will inevitably butt over how hard to go on their combined class. –Clint Worthington
One Last Silver Bullet
Who was Kreese calling there at the end? Two words: Terry Silver.
The delectable devil in the shadows of The Karate Kid Part III, Silver is the smoking gun that Kreese needs right now. His longtime military buddy — and, let’s be frank, the OG owner of the Cobra Kai dojo — is one of La Russo’s greatest foes. His Machiavellian ways nearly decimated Daniel and Miyagi’s relationship in Part III, turning the All-Valley champion into a sobbing mess. In short, Silver was a true-blue Bond villain in a teen sports drama, complete with a steamy hot tub, and he would be a shoe-in for Cobra Kai.
The question is: Would actor Thomas Ian Griffith be game? Good question. A year or two ago, the jury was out on the veteran actor, particularly since his last on-screen role was way, way back in the aughts. But now, the writing is all on the wall (and also Wikipedia): Not only did Griffith recently appear on Josh Gad’s Reunited Apart series with the original cast, but his own Wiki page lists Cobra Kai for 2021. Granted, anyone can edit this, so who knows, but things are looking good for the Silver bullet to return.
One can’t say the same for Miyagi-Do, though. If Silver does, indeed, return, Daniel and Johnny are going to have some tough-as-nails competition to face. They’re going to be fighting an army! Again, Silver is a stone-cold villain, whose tyranny extends well beyond the mat. In addition to backstabbing, he’s a billionaire who made his fortune dumping toxic waste — look, it was 1989, everything was about toxic waste — and one can only imagine the riff-raff he’ll cause La Russo and his family business.
Of course, Johnny isn’t out of Silver’s crosshairs, either. If Daniel was easily manipulated by Silver way back when, who’s to say he won’t have an influence on Johnny’s son, Robby. The guy feeds on hate, and Robby is full of it right now, so don’t think for a second the writers haven’t thought about capitalizing on that opportunity. It would be a fitting parallel to Part III in a series that loves a good parallel, and would continue to build upon Robby’s heart of darkness arc that has been building since the end of Season 2.
Bottom line: Keep an eye out on the shadows. –Michael Roffman
Bad Boy Barnes
The Karate Kid Part III (Columbia Pictures)
With Silver, one has to wonder, What about Mike Barnes? If you recall, things didn’t end so well for the two of them: Silver’s “obnoxious”, would-be all-star was courageously taken down by Daniel and the kata in the All-Valley Tournament. It was a triumphant win that saw the raucous crowd toss back their free Cobra Kai shirts, drowning Silver, Kreese, and Barnes with shame. That shame went right to their bank accounts, too, crippling any possible chances of a Cobra Kai expansion for good.
Because of this, one has to imagine that Barnes — who negotiated his way into owning 50% of the business — didn’t exactly stay in touch with the billionaire Silver. In fact, you could probably make an educated guess that Silver, being the opportunistic suit he is, dumped Barnes, gave Kreese his dog tags back, and hit the road in his “poor” hatchback truck. Then again, if Kreese can smooth things over with a single phone call, who’s to say they wouldn’t find a place for Barnes in their rekindled army?
Barnes would be a hell of a sergeant for the bad boy bullies roaming around Cobra Kai right now. Let’s not forget, this is a guy who only smiled when he was punishing La Russo, be it muscling him into contracts or — gulp — threatening his life on mountainsides. These contemptuous qualities would make him a coup for Kreese’s new recruits, and especially dangerous for someone similarly venomous like, say, Tory Nichols (Peyton List). The damage those two could do together is frightening, to say the least.
All it would take is a phone call, too — not to Barnes, but to actor Sean Kanan. Unlike Griffith, Kanan has been acting regularly since his days breaking banzai trees, and he’s been quite open to a return to the franchise. Even more to that point, he took part in the aforementioned reunion with Gad, which means he’s well within the circle at this point. In other words, it would behoove Daniel to invest in some much-needed home insurance in Season 4, especially for his koi pond garden at Miyagi-Do.
Eco-terrorism is kind of this guy’s MO. –Michael Roffman
Read ahead for theories on Hilary Swank and a missing Cobra Kai alum…
The Return of Aisha
One notable absence from season 3 of Cobra Kai is Nichole Brown’s Aisha, one of the few Cobra Kais in the first two seasons to maintain peaceful ties with the Miyagi-Do students (and both Johnny and Danny). Brown was a charming, acerbic presence, and her status as one of the few Black women on the show (especially one who doesn’t conform to expected body standards expected of people who know martial arts) was refreshing, to say the least.
To that end, it was a bit disappointing to see her written off the show for Season 3, with a throwaway line that she’d transferred to a private school in the wake of Season 2’s school brawl. Brown herself has noted that the decision to not appear in Season 3 wasn’t hers, but was instead told that there weren’t any storylines for the character that season.
But that doesn’t mean we won’t see her in Season 4. Showrunners Jon Hurwitz and Josh Heald have left the door open for old characters to return, especially Aisha. In an interview with TV Line, Hurwitz implied Aisha’s journey may be far from over:
“We love Aisha and we love Nichole Brown. Certain characters we loved in Season 1 didn’t appear at all in Season 2, like Kyler, Yasmine and Louie. Before the season, we told Nichole the same thing we told those actors: That just because a character doesn’t appear for a period of time doesn’t mean they’ve left the universe, that they can’t return again. We love that character, and perhaps we’ll see her again one day.”
It’s hardly a guarantee, but as long as we have the possibility, let’s hope the writers find something for Aisha to do in Season 4 and bring Brown back. There’s plenty for her to do in this new season: Would she join the newly-expanded Miyagi-Do, or turn to the dark side with Kreese? What would her time away from her friends have changed about her? It’d be a shame to just make one of the show’s most endearing younger characters disappear for good. –Clint Worthington
Paging Jessica Andrews
By now, the only female left in LaRusso’s rolodex who hasn’t made it to Cobra Kai is Robyn Lively’s Jessica Andrews. Unlike Ali and Kumiko, though, Daniel and Jessica were only friends. (Probably because Lively was a minor at the time of filming Part III, while Macchio was a young adult at 27 years old. Here’s a whole thread about it.) So, if anyone has reason to come back into LaRusso’s life, it’s Andrews, seeing how the two of them would have zero excess baggage. Wouldn’t that be nice for a change.
Lively was also a part of Gad’s reunion, so like Silver and Barnes, a return from Andrews is well within possibility. The better question to ask is what purpose it would serve. If you recall, she wasn’t really too invested in the karate aspect of Daniel’s life, mostly in developing Miyagi’s banzai shop. So, how she might factor into Cobra Kai would require some finesse, at least something that would amount to more than just “Hey, I was in town. Remember 1989? Wild! Let’s hang out.”
Then again, LaRusso’s dealership does hand out banzais to new customers. Who knows, maybe she’s been his pottery supplier all of this time, and we catch her coming in with a new shipment. God, wouldn’t that be lame. –Michael Roffman
A Swanky Proposition
When Cobra Kai first premiered in 2018, nobody was thinking about The Next Karate Kid. Now? Anything goes. As Season 3 proved, nothing is being left off the table with this series, and that certainly extends to the oft-forgotten third sequel. Although it’s been relegated to the sidelines as the black sheep of the franchise — the first without La Russo — The Next Karate Kid has grown a cult following over the years, particularly in the wake of Hilary Swank’s two-time Oscar-winning success.
For those unfamiliar with the film, The Next Karate Kid finds Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) striking up a bond with Swank’s Julia Pierce. The granddaughter of one of his World War II mates, Pierce is a struggling teen with anger issues, not too dissimilar from La Russo years prior. As you might expect, Miyagi and Pierce forge a bond with Miyagi’s lessons helping her take on a group of fraternal assholes called the Alpha Elite. In the end, it’s implied that Miyagi helped her find a new, peaceful path in life.
So, how would Pierce factor into Cobra Kai? Simply put, her link to Miyagi. With Morita long gone, the series has continued to find new and inventive ways to maintain his presence over the series. The first season featured an emotional moment at his gravesite, the second season saw La Russo discuss his legacy in his home dojo, and the third surrounded Miyagi’s final words in a letter written before his passing. Pierce could be a unique way to bring Miyagi back into the fourth or fifth season.
Don’t call it a stretch, either. Hurwitz has already confirmed that Pierce’s name has been brought up in the writers’ room over the last few years as he recently told Cinema Blend: “We always say that our show takes place in the Miyagi-verse…in our minds, any story in which Mr. Miyagi was a character, with Pat Morita playing Mr. Miyagi I should say, is canon to our world. The Next Karate Kidis a part of our universe. We believe that the events of that movie happened…” So, there you go.
As for Swank, it would simply be a matter of heading down the hall, thanks to Cobra Kai moving to Netflix. This past Fall, Swank led the streaming giant’s sci-fi drama, Away, so television isn’t out of her league. Couple that notion with her recent flair for genre — her villainous turn in this past Spring’s The Hunt was delectable — and you can start to see a stony path form to Miyagi-Do. Now, whether or not she’ll appear in Season 4 remains to be seen, but like Elisabeth Shue, it’s just a matter of time.
Here’s hoping they finally bridge these stories. –Michael Roffman
Room for Jaden?
Lest we forget, there was actually a Karate Kid remake in 2010, a Hong Kong-set affair that saw Jackie Chan training a young Jaden Smith in the Chinese art of kung fu. (Why the film wasn’t called The Kung Fu Kid escapes me, but I digress.) Reviews were lukewarm, but the box office was solid, earning $359 million off a $40 million budget. No one really gives it the time of day, but it’s hardly Part IIIlevels of bad.
Given that Jaden’s dad Will is an executive producer on the show (and owns the rights to the franchise), just how feasible is it to merge the two realms and have Jaden’s Dre Parker intersect with the characters of Cobra Kai? Or, heaven of heavens, bring Jackie Chan in for a quick cameo as his teacher, Mr. Han?
It’s a cavernous stretch — the two films may as well take place in different universes, and the Chinese world of the remake doesn’t mesh all that cleanly with the Japanese karate of the original and Cobra Kai. Also, bringing Chan on might just break the world of the show a bit too much: no amount of training or camera tricks can make Ralph Macchio and Jackie Chan look like they’re on the same level of high-kicking expertise.
But the show’s Mandalorian-level fealty to franchise lore might just demand it eventually — if they look under the couch cushions for a little extra Netflix dough, they might just be able to afford it. As for Jaden, all it’ll take is a quick phone call from Daddy, and we can bring Dre to the Valley from Detroit to shake up the status quo even further. –Clint Worthington
Written by Michael Roffman and Clint Worthington