Cobra Kai season 4 is here, and it's packed with all the twists, turns, and karate battles that we've come to expect from the Netflix show.
This season kicks into higher gear, though, with the return of The Karate Kid 3 villain Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) – as well as a shift in allegiances that sees Ralph Macchio's Daniel LaRusso and William Zabka's Johnny Lawrence attempting to work together to coach their dojos through the All Valley. The stakes couldn't be higher, either: a deal made in season 3 means the tournament losers have to quit teaching karate and close their dojos.
We sat down with co-creators Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg to break down season 4's biggest talking points, from who won the gold at the All Valley to that surprise return in the season's final moments. Naturally, the following is packed with spoilers, so turn back now if you're not up to speed. Scroll (or should that be wax?) on to get the lowdown on all of season 4's surprises.
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All Valley changes, winners, and losers
The action of season 4 hurtles toward one dramatic showdown: the All Valley Karate Tournament. This time round, though, the tournament has some major changes. There's now a skills category, and the boys and girls are split apart into two divisions – which means there's two champions. But only one dojo can come out on top, and the grand champion is decided by which school gets the most points overall. In season 4, that turns out to be Cobra Kai.
"It was a combination of a wide array of things that led to what we did," Hurwitz explains. "First off, we started off really wanting to have both a male and female division this year. We love the idea of having a Tory and Sam final. But we also felt that we wanted to have some of the male competitors in a final as well. And, when looking at the arcs that the characters went through this season, if you look at the two competitors who won, both Hawk and Tory, they were the most balanced of the fighters at that time emotionally."
Jacob Bertrand's Hawk took down Tanner Buchanan's Robby Keene to emerge victorious, while Peyton List's Tory Nichols beat Mary Mouser's Samantha LaRusso in the girls' final.
"Hawk had gone through a roller coaster of a season, but had found who he was by the time he was in the final, whereas Robby had a lot of turmoil going on about the choices that he had made and his influence he had had, or that Cobra Kai had had, on Kenny, and his relationship with his senseis," Hurwitz says.
As shocking as the winners (and losers) are, an even more surprising moment comes in the girls' final. As Tory and Sam fight it out, Terry Silver instructs his pupil to be brutal and fight dirty. But Kreese (Martin Kove) seems to soften, and tells Tory to do what she wants to do.
"Samantha had come around and gotten to a good place before that match with Tory, but Tory was also in a good place," Hurwitz adds. "And we liked the idea of the combination of Kreese being able to have his slight redemption, he has the do over of that moment that he had in Karate Kid, but this time, tells his fighter to do it her way, and have faith in her. And for Tory, we love the idea of her having this victory for once this season. She's been this underdog in life. And we knew where we were going in the aftermath with Terry Silver and the payoff. So it's the combination of those things that led to it, and we knew that we wanted Cobra Kai to come out victorious."
Of course, Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso joined forces precisely to stop Cobra Kai taking home the trophy, but weren't quite able to put their differences aside until the All Valley was almost over.
"Perhaps if Johnny and Daniel had gotten over their issues earlier in the season and had worked together all the way through and come to the headspace that they did by the time we were in the final, things may have been different," Hurwitz points out. "But it was a little too little too late, and Terry Silver was not going to allow Cobra Kai to lose no matter what."
The returning big bad from The Karate Kid 3 certainly made his mark in season 4, and in the final episode, we learn that not only did he bribe the All Valley referee to ensure a Cobra Kai victory – but he also framed Kreese for the brutal beatdown of Paul Walter Hauser's Stingray, which Silver himself delivered.
The more contentious relationship between Kreese and Silver may have come as a surprise, and Schlossberg explains why the partnership headed to a complete breakdown as the season went on.
"The fun thing was having Terry Silver being somebody who's not a kid who can be manipulated, somebody who's lived life, who has perspective, and ultimately realizes he's being played and says, 'Hey, I'm Cobra Kai too, I can manipulate myself, and be careful what you wish for bringing me back into this world because I'm going to double cross you,'" he says. "And we loved that, that story of Kreese manipulating Silver only to have it bite him in the end. It was satisfying if you're somebody who's rooting against Kreese – many people are – you're feeling like, 'Okay, good, but this isn't how it should be.' So it's unresolved. And in some ways, things are worse than they've ever been with Terry Silver unleashed and in total control of the Valley."
With Silver such a threat, it makes sense Team Miyagi-Do would need an extra player to balance the board. In the final moments of season 4, we discover that's going to be Yuji Okumoto's Chozen – Daniel's former nemesis from The Karate Kid 2, returning after his earlier role in season 3.
"Chozen is one of our favorite characters in the franchise," Hurwitz says. "When Yuji returned in season 3, the scenes that he had with Ralph were some of our favorites in that season, both from a karate standpoint, but also a comedy standpoint. We love that dynamic and just what he brings. And beyond that he's got demons, he has things that he's working through himself in life. So he's a fully realized character that has work to be done, and what better time for him to come to the United States and join the fight in the Valley than when Terry Silver is on top? Because, as we all know, Terry Silver is a very formidable opponent… If Cobra Kai is going to have Terry Silver on that side, to bring in Chozen who has a history of fighting to the death and fearlessness, and seemingly is more skilled and is more of a karate threat than Daniel, even, at this point, it felt like it was great for season 5 to have Chozen and Silver as opposing forces."
As we learn in the moments before Chozen's return is revealed, Daniel has no intention of honoring the bargain made with Kreese at the end of season 3.
"Daniel sees what's going on here, he knows the threat that is there, he knows who Terry Silver is, he knows the resources Terry Silver has," Hurwitz continues. "Him sitting down [wouldn't happen] when he knows that these are not honorable people that this agreement was made [with], and he recognizes that offense isn't always the bad thing, and that there are people within Miyagi-Do, Chozen namely, who have a little bit more of an aggressive approach to the Miyagi-Do teachings, that as much as he believes in honor, and the fact that he went into the tournament believing that he was going to shut down Miyagi-Do, but in the aftermath, and just seeing how the chips all fell, he couldn't let it go down like that. And he was ready to continue defending Miyagi-Do's honor and fighting these forces that he believes are detrimental to the future of the kids of the Valley."
That bond between Johnny and Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña) has always been at the heart of Cobra Kai. But, at the end of season 4, Miguel sets out on his own to find his father after an injury leads to him dropping out of the All Valley, despite Johnny's misguided attempt to keep him in the fight. While Johnny decides to go after Miguel, the situation is complicated by his son Robby reaching out, and the two apparently beginning to reconcile. Hurwitz explains how these developments might affect season 5.
"Johnny by the end of this season has recognized that the issues that he was working through, whether it be his issues with Daniel, his issues with Robby, his issues with Silver, the culmination of it was him putting pressure on Miguel in a way that he regretted," he explains. "And him going after Miguel is not really a direct attempt to show Miguel that he cares, but he's doing it because he cares, he cares for Miguel, he cares for Carmen, and he wants [Miguel] to be safe. And he, like any good parent, is taking it upon himself to try to mend fences and make sure that Miguel is safe. Will that lead to complications between his relationship with Robby, will he succeed in finding Miguel in Mexico, will Miguel forgive him, will everything be smooth sailing? That's for season 5 to answer. But Johnny is at least going to give it a shot."
Cobra Kai season 4 is streaming now on Netflix. If you're all caught up, check out our guide to the best Netflix shows to fill out your watchlist.