How Cobra Kai 'Kicks Things Up a Notch' in Season 5

"Strike First. Strike Hard. No Mercy" Ralph Macchio, William Zabka and the Cobra Kai cast tease the epic fights and higher stakes of season 5.

by | September 9, 2022 | Comments

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Cobra Kai is back. Season 5 of the hit martial arts drama is now streaming on Netflix, and audiences everywhere will be witness to a series that is still showing up in top form.

Starring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, as former rivals Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence, the program has continued the story and character drama first introduced to moviegoers in the Karate Kid movie franchise. Over three decades later, the legacy continues as new characters, conflicts, and epic fight scenes have catapulted the ’80s phenomenon back into the pop culture vernacular.

Picking up where season 4 ended, Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) has sidelined sensei John Kreese (Martin Kove) and commandeered Cobra Kai. Their All Valley Karate Tournament victory against Daniel’s dojo Miyagi-Do and Johnny’s Eagle Fang means Silver’s reign seems imminent as our two heroes are forced, per a mutual agreement with Silver, to close up shop.

Silver may have everyone else fooled, but LaRusso knows the evil lurking underneath that polished exterior. With the appearance of some familiar faces  – Yuji Okumoto’s Chozen and Sean Kanan’s Mike Barnes from The Karate Kid Part III  – and the introduction of Kim Da-Eun, Cobra Kai’s new female sensei (played by Alicia Hannah-Kim), unpredictable layers are added to the challenge ahead.

As the Cobra Kai influence rapidly spreads, and the drama continues to build between Miguel (Xolo Maridueña), Samantha (Mary Mouser), Robbie (Tanner Buchanan), Tory (Peyton List) and the rest, can Daniel bring balance back to their lives and rid the Valley of Terry Silver, once and for all?

Rotten Tomatoes sat down with the cast during the show’s official press day to get insight on this and other topics ahead of the season 5 premiere. So, without further ado, here are 7 things you should know about Cobra Kai season 5:

1. Terry Silver’s mission of dojo domination is well under way.

Cobra Kai. (L to R) Thomas Ian Griffith as Terry Silver, Peyton List as Tory Nichols in Cobra Kai. Cr. Curtis Bonds Baker/Netflix © 2022

(Photo by Netflix)

“What if Terry Silver won the tournament back in the ’80s?” Thomas Ian Griffith asked Rotten Tomatoes. “This is what his dream was — right? — to expand and take over the map.”

That simple statement sums up Silver’s modus operandi as we head into season 5 of Cobra Kai. With John Kreese out of the way, the dojo’s new head has his eyes on expansion. And since he won the bet at the All Valley Karate Tournament, Silver has no opposition in his mission, leaving him room spread his message and influence throughout the San Fernando Valley and beyond.

“Now, it’s like it’s come to fruition all these years later,” he continued.  “Kreese is out of the way. This is my baby and I’m going to go all out. The Valley’s too small. Now, I’m going to take this into the world and reach as many people as I can.”

2. He sends Daniel LaRusso into a downward spiral.

(Photo by Netflix)

Terry may be thriving in the new season, but the same cannot be said for Daniel. He has to honor the bet and step away from teaching karate professionally. But, pivoting to other life responsibilities isn’t a simple thing to do for Daniel, especially when you consider how dangerous Terry Silver is.

“Daniel is the only one who knows of Terry Silver, and knows the truth of Terry Silver,” Macchio explained. “He knows how diabolical and evil he is. And so, in that, Daniel kind of winds up looking like the crazy person to everyone else. It gets to a point where he loses his grip on almost every element of his life and goes down a path that we haven’t seen before.”

3. Johnny takes a break for some much needed family time.

(Photo by Netflix)

Also honoring the bet is Johnny, whose “badass” dojo Eagle Fang, also shuttered its doors. But unlike Daniel, he’s moved on to focus on other elements of his life that have desperately needed his attention for quite some time.

“This season, Johnny’s role is not to worry too much about Cobra Kai,” Zabka said. “He’s going off to patch up some relationships. And he’s romantically involved with Carmen and there’s some legs to that. With what happens in that situation, he becomes very domesticated.”

As LaRusso spirals out of control, Johnny begins to, as Zabka puts it, “clean up his act a little bit.” We’ve watched throughout the first four seasons as he fumbled his fatherly duties with Robbie and now, it looks like he’ll be righting that ship.

“He’s on his best behavior and projecting the best he could to be a father, and a father-type of figure, and a level-headed thinker as Daniel’s out spinning and chasing the dragon, which is very real in the Valley.”

4. The conflict between Miguel and Robbie will reach its breaking point.

(Photo by Netflix)

“A father, and a father-type of figure,” Zabka’s words refer to his complex mentoring relationship with his son, Robbie, and student, Miguel.

In true Cobra Kai fashion, these two young men have been at each other’s’ throats for a while now. And ever since Robbie kicked Miguel over the railing at school, which put him in a coma and paralyzed him for a spell, there have been unresolved issues between the two. According to Maridueña, the duo will face their drama finally in season 5.

“I think there’s a really big need for for some unity,” he said. “And I think we’ll find that one way or another in season 5. It’s been five years in the making.”

Doing his best to avoid any further spoilers, the actor suggested they’d “hopefully get to sit down and have a conversation together, whether or not it’s over fists, or over some tea.” By the looks of the above photo, though, we think it’s going to be the first option.

5. Sam takes a break from karate to find herself.

(Photo by Netflix)

Every character in this show is carrying a fair share of trauma with them. For Sam, who lost the All Valley in season 4, she’s finally arrived at her own breaking point. With the closure of Miyago-Do, she takes a cue to step away from all the chaos and take some much needed “me time.”

Mary Mouser gave a strong checklist to back up Sam’s reason for this break: “The weight that she’s carrying, the disappointment, the feeling like she’s letting everybody in her life down by losing that tournament.” And we’ve not even mentioned her enduring conflict with Tory, who defeated her last season, putting the proverbial crown on Cobra Kai’s head.

She continued: “Tory felt like this larger-than-life boogeyman for so long. Though that tournament added to that, at the same time, it’s almost like everything is kind of her enemy at this point. And I think that can open up a door to hopefully some level of understanding.”

6. Tory’s allegiance to Cobra Kai is put to the test.

(Photo by Netflix)

On the flip-side of that dynamic is Tory, who was beaming off her championship win. That is, of course, until she learned her victory was not legitimately earned, thanks to Terry Silver’s influence.

“Winning the All Valley felt like Tori would feel worthy to herself, finally,” Peyton List said. “When that didn’t necessarily happen, because of Silver’s actions, I think that her whole world has been sort of turned upside down. Her idea of Sam has become very different since the loss/win.”

And yet, she remains embedded within the Cobra Kai clan. But her allegiance, it seems, is decaying.

“I think the attraction of Cobra Kai was John Kreese,” she continued. “Kreese was a parental figure to Tory and a guide. So Silver coming in and taking over … Tory never liked Silver, from the beginning. And then the new female sensei that comes, she just keeps pushing her and referring to her as The Champ and wanting to see these things. She’s not taking it easy on her whatsoever. It’s a huge conflict and it’s really difficult for Tory.”

7. The stakes have never been higher.

(Photo by Netflix)

Every season of Cobra Kai has exceeded expectations. Season 5 continues to deliver the show’s signature mix of heartfelt drama and riveting fight sequences. In the new episodes, the stakes get raised even higher. And prepare yourselves: blood gets spilled.

“There’s a certain amount of intensity that that comes through,” Okumoto explained. “When they say, Action!, boy, that intensity kicks up a notch.”

Ralph Macchio acknowledged the challenges that come with creating a successful program as the television medium continues to evolve. “It’s very tough to remain flat-lined and not get bigger as the stakes get higher.”

“The show is rare,” he continued, “You could have these violins, oboes and string moments of teary-eyed father son redemption moments, and then be fighting for the soul of the Valley with weapons, and a little bit of bloodshed. It’s amazing.”

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