Cobra Kai Season three Finale: EPs discover Kreese’s Trauma, the inconceivable alliance of the Dojos – Plus, New Endgame Intel
Season 3 of Cobra Kai has increased the heat on the rivalry front, but the biggest challenge for the dojos is yet to come.
After Daniel went to Japan and Johnny to … well, a bar stool, a visit from an old friend helped the two disagreed sensei bury the hatchet. After another knockabout showdown with Cobra Kai, Johnny’s new Eagle Fang Dojo and Daniel’s Miyagi-Do group eventually teamed up against John Kreese’s violent gang of rascals and teachings without mercy. When a bloody exchange of fists between the students destroyed the LaRusso house, Kreese, Johnny and Daniel agreed to do things the old-fashioned way: with a karate tournament, of course!
This is where executive producers and co-showrunners Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg break the season, including Daniel and Johnny’s new partnership, Kreese’s traumatic backstory, the depiction of bullying on the show, and whether season 4 is the final battle for the soul of will be the valley.
TVLINE | Did you always plan for season three to end with Johnny and Daniel’s union? And why is this point in history the right time for them to crush their beef? I can’t imagine it going completely smoothly for her.
HEALTHY | Giving them that moment was something we always knew was coming. We always felt that this was the time to do it, but we do it in a way that also made us realize who these characters are. They are both very strong in their own philosophies, ideals, and pasts. There seems to be a very distinct battle ahead of us, a very clear line and a set of circumstances that brought them to this moment, but time will tell whether history repeats itself and they revert to old habits, or whether they do going to be able to weather the storm and lean into one another to do the hard work of what it takes to form a partnership.
TVLINE | The end of the Kreese flashback gave us some much-needed background on Cobra Kai’s biggest bad guy. Why is he still so involved in the dojo after all these years?
HURWITZ | Cobra Kai runs in his blood. He founded Cobra Kai. It was important for us to take this character that you’ve known all these years – who’s just bad … he’s Darth Vader, he’s evil – and understand where that guy comes from. A guy who routinely speaks of “no mercy.” Why is it so important to him? We meet him in season 3 off Vietnam and see that he was an outsider himself, perhaps with a more tragic life than Daniel or Miguel, for example. Dealing with the situations he was dealing with and the experience of showing compassion and seeing that the world does not necessarily reward good behavior had a profound effect on him. It was a traumatizing experience that he still carries with him today.
We always asked: “Why should John Kreese start a karate dojo?” From the beginning it was because he believes that he can offer young people something, hours of life that he considers important so that these children know them and can defend themselves in life. In his mind he teaches people what it takes to get through life. Seeing Cobra Kai was back brought that spirit back into him. He had given up life in many ways. Then having a front row seat was too much when Johnny changed some of the core elements he thinks are important to Cobra Kai. He is just as determined as he was many years ago when he founded the dojo to educate the youth of the valley to prepare for the world they must deal with.
TVLINE | At the end of the finale, Kreese asked his old army buddy Terry for help. Has this role already been taken and if so, who will play it?
HURWITZ | Just because Kreese reached out to someone doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be returning to the show. However, in our show we try to bring back the original actor who played characters in the past as much as possible. We all loved the character of Terry Silver in The Karate Kid 3 and his portrayal of Thomas Ian Griffith. So if this character returned for season four, we’d hope he’d be the one to play him.
SCHLOSSBERG | There is no confirmation, anything can happen. But I’ll say, if you love Terry Silver this is probably the best show you can prepare for to see if he shows up. [Laughs] But we can’t make any promises right now because everything is a mystery.
TVLINE | Why was Daniel’s trip back to Okinawa important to his story, and how did it help him prepare for the drama that ended up playing out?
SCHLOSSBERG | Mr. Miyagi’s legacy is a huge part of his psyche, and to see the Miyagi name tarnished due to what happened at the school, he bears that responsibility. More than ever, he’s just an emotional wreck and needed Mr. Miyagi’s help. There are several ways to connect with the past. There’s prayer, it’s going to a cemetery, and for some people it’s a journey to reconnect with their roots. Mr. Miyagi’s homeland of Okinawa is the birthplace of Miyagi-Do karate for Daniel, so it really provided the emotional and psychological answers to his questions.
By connecting with some of these characters from Karate Kid Part II, especially Kumiko, she can give him some insight into Miyagi’s-san. Sometimes as you get older and search your parents’ belongings when they have died, you will see and learn something about them that you did not think of as a child. We always liked the idea that Daniel viewed Miyagi-san as that wise omniscient force who had all the answers to everything, and when Kumiko read the letter to him, he found that Miyagi-san didn’t have all the answers, and that Daniel did that was what solved his life. He realizes that it is okay not to have all the answers for everything. Miyagi-san didn’t.
TVLINE| Was there a behind-the-scenes discussion about how far you wanted to take the bullying aspects of the show?
SCHLOSSBERG | We want the show to work just like The Karate Kid, both in a classic bullying sense and in a modern way. From the very beginning of Season 1, we considered aspects of cyberbullying, be it body shaming or slut shaming, things that may be more timely although they have been going on for years. We want it to be relevant and universal that it really creates the frustration in the audience: “God, I feel bad for these kids. I want them to overcome. “That’s the magic of The Karate Kid. It’s this outsider story.
Bullying was tied into this story when we first introduced Cobra Kai to Ralph Macchio. It’s not just about bringing back all the characters we like and coming up with a fun Kreese backstory. That’s because this topic is more relevant than ever. This story and the franchise are very cathartic to people going through this. You don’t want to bother people too much if they can’t keep watching the show, but life can be disruptive at times. It’s not just the physical abuse, it’s the mental abuse. Children can commit suicide because of these things. We don’t want to be afraid to bring up topics, but we try to be careful. Usually there is also a comedy five minutes later. We go back and forth between fun, but we also touch on the serious issues of bullying.
TVLINE | Have you ever had plans to add an LGBTQ character to shed some light on the damage that type of language could cause if Johnny referred to his students as “pansies” or “penis breath”?
HURWITZ | We talk about all kinds of characters to add to the world and think about how they would react or react to the mentality of Johnny – something like that unfrozen caveman, a guy from the 80s – and his idiom with the reaction of the compare today’s youth to it and the impact it can have. So we’ve absolutely talked about adding characters from this community, and honestly all types of teenagers who aren’t necessarily represented.
SCHLOSSBERG | In a way, while Miguel is not a gay character, he represents the modern mindset and counterpoint. Sometimes Johnny won’t let him speak, which is part of the problem. In the first lesson, Miguel calls him because he said, “You don’t want to be a P-Ssy, you have to have balls.” Immediately Miguel says, “Uh, I think you’re a gender stereotype here?” and Johnny says, “Quiet!” We hope that from the student’s point of view, the audience can see that we are aware that Johnny is behind the times. It didn’t come to the place where [the bullying] hit everyone especially hard, but that’s something to keep exploring as the seasons progress and as we get to know more students.
TVLINE | The show is already renewed for season 4, but have you considered where else the series could go?
HEALTHY | We have an endgame on our mind. We’ve had one for a while, and it’s not in season 4. It goes way beyond that. In our minds we have a story worth seasons that we need to tell before we get to this endgame. This will be a discussion with our new partners at Netflix. Can we write about this endgame? Can we know it’s coming That’s not always the case with television, and we respect that. At the moment we continue to write at the same speed and with the same path that we took from the beginning.
Now it’s your turn! Rate the finale and season below, then drop all your thoughts on Season 3 in the comments!