Cobra Kai season four is now out in the world and it’s another exciting, surprise-filled ride through the world of The Karate Kid. Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) have teamed up to take down Cobra Kai and its sensei, John Kreese (Martin Kove). Kreese has recruited his best friend Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) for the battle. In between, rivalries between Tori (Peyton List) and Sam (Mary Mouser), as well as Robbie (Tanner Buchanan) and Miguel (Xolo Maridueña), continue to bubble, all leading to the mother of all karate tournaments, The All Valley.
That’s not exactly how it all plays out, which you know if you’ve finished Cobra Kai season four. And if you have, we talked to the guys you want to hear from, co-creators and producers Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, and Josh Heald, to talk more. The trio spoke to io9 a few weeks back about how they made some of the season’s biggest decisions.
Coming out of season three and into season four, the biggest change on Cobra Kai was the introduction of Karate Kid Part III villain Terry Silver. This was huge for a bunch of reasons (detailed here), but the show instantly subverts your expectations showing that Silver has changed. In fact, he hangs up on Kreese’s call from last season. So we asked the producers, how did Silver get from there to the finale where he frames Kreese for the assault against Stringray (Paul Walter Hauser) in order to once again gain control of Cobra Kai?
“So we’ve all been giant fans of Terry Silver from the beginning,” Jon Hurwitz told io9. “We all recognize the flaws of Karate Kid 3 as well. But his character, he just had such a presence and it all started with like, ‘Okay, we know the flaws of Karate Kid 3 and we know that he’s doing some pretty insane things in that movie.’ So first up was ‘Okay, did he continue down that path?’ and how can you continue down that path and like, be alive, you know? Or not be locked up in an insane asylum? So, first, we were like, ‘Well, what was the explanation?’ Drugs played a role in it.
“If you watch Karate Kid 3 and you think about him on cocaine, everything starts to make more sense,” Hayden Schlossberg added.
“Exactly,” Hurwitz continued. “So it’s starting off with sort of looking back in the past and being like, ‘Okay, he was off the reservation and we would want to bring him in and try to ground the story.’ So we’re like, ‘Okay, a guy like him, some things came back to bite him. He was doing corrupt things back then. He’s had his legal troubles and at the end of The Karate Kid 3 things didn’t work out for him and Kreese. We established in our series that Kreese had gone off, so his best friend kind of abandoned him. So we took him on a journey in the time off of our show to bring him to a place where he’s moved on in life and he’s a wealthy man. He’s living a beautiful life and a peaceful life and doing charitable things and sort of living it up in those ways.”
“But there was something missing in his life, and that’s something that Kreese sees immediately for him and is able to slowly lure him out and bring back that snake. And once he’s in, it’s like a drug. He’s back in Cobra Kai. He’s trying to do it the right way. But why would Daniel LaRusso believe that? Why would Daniel believe after the crazy psychopath that he was in Karate Kid 3 that ‘Oh, he’s coming in and he’s apologizing for the past?’ Bullshit, if you’re really there. We as an audience see how he’s changed, perhaps, in certain ways, but then Daniel reacts the way that he is and Terry Silver’s the kind of guy who’s not necessarily going to just chill with that. He is just going to drive him further.”
“We thought that it’s an interesting dynamic to be exploring among these two older men who have this shared war experience together and the push and pull of them with the ideologies and how to move forward with this dojo,” Hurwitz said. “And in a sense, Kreese is this bully to Silver in certain ways. He was his defender and his best friend, but also a guy who was always his superior in a sense. And if you push a guy far enough, especially one who has studied Cobra Kai his whole life, you may get bit by the end. And that turn at the end, like there’s nothing we love more than when it almost feels like Terry Silver can hear the score of our composer as he sort of dances in his victory. It was one of our favorite things that we’ve done on the series is this season with Terry Silver.”
How did they decide who was going to fight in the All Valley and ultimately, who would take home the trophies?
The other big storyline that carried over from season three was that the dojos would be fighting at the All Valley Karate Tournament. But in order to make that tournament emotionally satisfying, the producers had to be careful to set up who fought who throughout the tournament and then, ultimately, who would fight in the finals and who would win. Spoiler alert, Robbie fights Hawk, with Hawk eking out a victory, and then Tori fights Sam, with Tori winning.
“Well, you know, some of it comes from where we’ve been before. Some of it comes from what the audience expects and some of it factors into where we know we’re going,” Josh Heald explained. “And all three of those paths really influence how that story comes together. We always want to give the audience what they want, and we always want to give it to them in a way that they’re not expecting. So we’re not just trying to say ‘You want dessert, here’s a piece of fish’ because that’s not exciting. But if we can make that dessert even have flavors that you didn’t imagine, that’s a win for us.”
“So, it starts with Tori and Sam,” Heald continued. “That’s probably the biggest rivalry of the season. We’re coming into this season with unfinished business. There is a war that needs to happen between these two to really overcome what they still have between them. And for a lot of other characters, it’s more personal journeys. There is ‘I hate you because you’re in Cobra Kai,’ ‘I hate you because you’re in Miyagi Do,’ ‘I hate you personally because of this.’ But it doesn’t rise to that level of Tori and Sam.”
“And so when putting together the final fights and the brackets, we really wanted to be honest and have an investment in making those fights different,” he said. “The boys’ fight really is this action-packed, just, the spectacle of the both of these guys at the height of their powers. Each of them, for their own reasons, wanting to overcome something. But it’s not pure hatred from one to the other on the other side of the mat. This isn’t a rivalry for the ages. This is the current heir apparent of Cobra Kai and the current strength of Miyagi Do. With Sam and Tori, it really is ‘We have to have it out. This has to happen. One of us has to win.’ And then in terms of who wins, who loses, it all factors into where we know we’re going from season four into season five and beyond. And making sure that that we’re setting up the stakes in the conflict in all the best ways.”
How the heck did Carrie Underwood show up and why did she sing “The Moment of Truth?” Will they ever play “You’re the Best?”
Cobra Kai has now run for four seasons and in those four seasons, which have had two All Valley tournaments, the producers have yet to use The Karate Kid’s most iconic song, “You’re the Best” by Joe Esposito. In fact, in season four, they use another song from the original film in its place over the tournament, “The Moment of Truth” by Survivor, except it’s sung by country superstar Carrie Underwood. We had to know why that song was used instead of “You’re the Best” and how did Carrie Underwood get involved.
“We obviously used ‘The Moment of Truth’ and Carrie Underwood’s cover in the same way that ‘You’re the Best’ was used, taking you through the qualifying matches,” Schlossberg said. “And I think our reasoning for not wanting to do ‘You’re the Best’ in that context is, is that going to be better than the original movie? Like, I’ve seen that already. We’re not opposed to doing things that we’ve seen before, but there has to be some twist on it, and there wouldn’t have been a twist it would have just been like, ‘Okay, well, you’re going through it again. And hey, remember that song?’ So if we’re using ‘You’re the Best,’ it’s going to be in a way that pumps you up and is awesome, but not exactly the same thing that you’ve seen before. But we did want to do that type of thing at the tournament and we thought, ‘The Moment of Truth’ is a song that, if you’re a Karate Kid fan, you know, but it didn’t really like break out into pop culture the way ‘You’re the Best’ did. But still, it’s Survivor. It’s got that ‘80s rock anthem to it. And so it worked in the same way.”
“Bottom line is there you have an example of like, ‘Okay, we wanted to give those same vibes of energy,’ like pushing you through the tournament,” Schlossberg continued. “And, with Carrie, it was a situation where we had already known we wanted there to be that kind of thing at the tournament. We love the idea of that tournament board, the All Valley Tournament Board, is in the same boat as us trying to figure out how do we make this the biggest tournament ever? And it’s like, ‘Why not like a surprise celebrity guest or musical performance?’ And so that was already something that we were thinking about. Then when Netflix aired Cobra Kai, she was somebody who was vocal on Twitter about loving Cobra Kai. So we’re like, ‘Oh my God.’ We put two and two together, she sings the Sunday Night Football songs, it kind of makes a lot of sense for her to be somebody that can sing that,’ and it worked out great.”
A huge thanks to Cobra Kai creators Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, and Josh Heald for speaking to us again. And we’ll have more Cobra Kai soon, including an interview with season four’s most interesting new character, Kenny, played by Dallas Dupree Young.
All four seasons of Cobra Kai are now streaming on Netflix.
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