By Emilia Barrett
Cobra Kai swept the nation this week like Johnny Lawrence used to sweep legs, debuting at #1 on the Netflix Streaming Service and shocking fans with its dramatic first casualty after two seasons. While the ending was not conclusive, one thing is clear: the adult stars of the show have no idea they are passing out Kool-Aid. We caught up with Sensei Daniel LaRusso, his daughter Samantha, and Johnny Lawrence to get their take on events.
“I could have just as easily been a Cobra Kai from the start back in the 80s,” said Daniel LaRusso while sitting akimbo atop the floating platform in Miyagi Do Karate Dojo. “If it hadn’t been for Mr. Miyagi teaching me balance, a yin to the Cobra Kai’s ‘No Mercy’ ‘Strike First’ yang, I mean I don’t know. He kept me out of trouble. We played defense. Fought with honor. Sure, I blackened a few eyes and bloodied a few noses this season. Proved I could still kick some ass. But that’s kids stuff compared to today, when punks without resilience go into schools armed with fully automatic weapons. What I was teaching my students? Balance. That should have been enough.”
“What drew you to Robby Keene, after all those years without Karate?”
“I guess he reminded me of myself. I could just . . . see that he needed someone.”
“Numerous people had reached out to him. Social workers, teachers. Why did you think it was you he needed?”
“Confidence. He needed confidence. He needed strength.”
“And you thought you were the person to give it to him, despite only training for a few months with a disabled veteran?”
“That’s it, I’m done,” LaRusso said, standing abruptly and falling off the platform. Later, while wiping water from his brow, he admitted, “Nothing works out as planned.”
Johnny Lawrence spoke to us in his favorite bar, Le Sucio, nursing a Coors Banquet and brown liquor. “Man, I knew Karate was dangerous, but I didn’t think it would end anywhere but a place like this, breaking the legs off some barstool and cracking it over a deserving skull.” He tapped the bar and ordered two more, neither of which were for us.
“When did you know it would lead somewhere else?”
“When I got sober for a minute, obviously,” he said, downing half of a beer.
“And Miguel. Did you sense you were . . . losing him, at any point?”
Johnny looked down at his glass for inspiration. “Maybe. I mean yeah, after Kreese showed up it was clear that I didn’t have any of them. They were there for the Kung Fu bullshit. The ‘No Mercy’, ass kicking philosophy they all worshipped. It’s bigger than me. Always was. I was wrong to start Cobra Kai again.”
Samantha LaRusso’s answers were more succinct: “Once you’re inside one of those. . . stupid boy cults, it’s dangerous to make your own decisions because you’ve been trained to think a certain way. Any deviation and your sensei will yell at you, even if you know it’s wrong. Then you act out the philosophy in real life and people get hurt. It’s just like politics,” she said, then spurred her horse and rode away.
There is indeed something almost allegorical about the second season of Cobra Kai’s tribalism and cult-like, blind devotion of students. Trained to make a certain choice, despite it being clearly wrong in every situation, a Sensei’s outlandish philosophy can be validated by a single, passionate moment in the heat of battle. That doesn’t mean a day by day philosophy of balance is wrong, or there isn’t a situation that calls for no mercy.
Perhaps LaRusso was right, even if he doesn’t see it. Balance is everything, so long as you still think for yourself.
Season 3 of Cobra Kai is in the works.