It’s been quite a journey when you consider where we started on the first episode of Cobra Kai — even moreso when you consider where the first Karate Kid began. In the first few seasons it was clearly evident how our main characters Johnny (William Zabka) and Daniel (Ralph Macchio) were clashing. They came from two different upbringings, are at two very different points in their lives, and were trained in two very different schools of thought. But in Season 4, as the two attempt to work together, we can see (more than ever) the dichotomy the two bring not just to life, but in molding their students as well.
Cobra Kai starts off in this very weird place. That name was the enemy; the bullies who Daniel fought against. You weren’t supposed to root for them. You weren’t supposed to cheer Johnny on. But through his own crude way, Johnny had something to teach kids, and their lives were better for it.
Obviously, Daniel didn’t think so. He grew up and was taught that Cobra Kai’s philosophy was wrong. And so he started his own dojo to teach his own philosophy of de-escalation, of sitting back and letting fights come to you rather than seeking them out.
Of course, Johnny ends up losing Cobra Kai and starts his own dojo, but his philosophy of striking first and not backing down remains. We see this conflict play out throughout Season 4 as Johnny’s top student (Xolo Maridueña) starts absorbing Daniel’s teachings and Daniel’s own daughter (Mary Mouser) starts absorbing Johnny’s. And this philosophical fight between the two becomes a literal fight as the mentors battle it out.
In short, the fourth season of Cobra Kai is the ultimate teaching of yin and yang. Even when Johnny and Daniel were fighting, they are both dressed in white and black uniforms. But as we see in their students, they are both two sides of the same coin. Life is not so simple as just to be one or the other. You can’t be just a pacifist or an aggressor because there are times when the situation calls for both. And it’s truly impressive how the season embodies this lesson throughout every single episode.
All four seasons of Cobra Kai are now streaming on Netflix.