There is no defeat in the Cobra Kai dojo.
Cobra Kai Season 2 is available now on YouTube Red. We're as into it as you are, so we're breaking down that massive Season 2 cliffhanger, Daniel's Season 2 journey, and the shocking and awesome resurrection of Sensei Kreese in Season 1.
The first season of YouTube Premium's Cobra Kai came out of nowhere and blew everyone's expectations out of the water. Really, a TV show that follows the story of a movie as beloved as The Karate Kid that comes out 30 years after the franchise launched doesn't immediately spark confidence. Thankfully, the show was excellent and got well-deserved critical appraise.
Now, as the show enters its second season, the surprise factor is gone and expectations are through the roof. The first two episodes of the season premiered at SXSW, picking up right where Season 1 left off, reintroducing us to evil sensei John Kreese (Martin Kove), as well as teasing a full-on confrontation between the rebooted Cobra Kai dojo and the newly revived Miyagi-Do Karate.
GameSpot had the opportunity to sit down with the cast and executive producers of Cobra Kai shortly before the special screening of the first two episodes at SXSW. The show's creators--Hayden Schlossberg, Josh Heald, and Jon Hurwitz--revealed that while they had to fill in the blanks to what happened to the characters after the movies, they did have some help from the original 1984 movie.
"When we first sold the show, we told Sony, what if we dig up all the old material and see if there's anything we can use? And we found a ton of deleted scenes, different takes and angles from the original movies," Jon Hurwitz recalled. "And, you know, in the very first episode of Season 1 we see that iconic fight between Johnny and Daniel but edited in an entirely different way. The scene in our show gives you more of Johnny's point of view, instead of focusing on Daniel's lens."
"We reintroduced sensei Kreese in the earliest moments of that very first episode," said Hayden Schlossberg. "John [Avildsen, director] shot that final fight in the first movie with six cameras, with dedicated cameras on Martin Kove, Billy [Zabka], and the Cobra Kai kids. We were able to use that footage to see a different angle of Johnny walking back onto the mat after his infamous talk with Kreese. We didn't go in with Daniel, we were with this kid who is now about to make his mistake that was going to influence the rest of his life. That kind of re-edited perspective certainly helped tell our story."
When I told the producers that I originally had very low interest in the show prior to watching the first episode, co-producer and co-creator Hayden Schlossberg seemed unsurprised--and even pleased.
"That's the best thing ever," Schlossberg said. "To have low-to-zero expectations was the best place for us to show up with this show, because we knew that we were bringing an intentional gravitas and respect, and we caught people off guard."
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When it came to expectations going into Season 2, Ralph Macchio, who reprises his role as Daniel LaRusso, thinks it's all about the characters. "I think Season 2 is truly a continuation," Macchio said. "We're just making another section of the movie, that is hours and hours long. It's not about figuring out how to surprise the audience this time, but about being true to these characters, and just adding to them and diving deeper into their arcs, but bigger and better."
That certainly seems to be the approach, at least according to producer Josh Heald. "The truth is we didn't want to change anything coming into this season," Heald told GameSpot. "The analogy we used is, we were in the kitchen making food. People seem to like the food, so let's just keep making it, you know? Don't change anything. We were confident in that we had a lot of storylines and characters that didn't get that much time in the spotlight last season, that we just kept them for this season. Like what's going on with Kreese? We didn't do much with him last season, so that's what this one is for. We're fans, this is fan fiction. It's super high-end fan fiction, but still. Our approach was, it if ain't broke, don't fix it."
Season 2 of Cobra Kai expands on some of the storylines from last season, and certainly on some of the characters. Not only do we see more of fan favorites like Hawk, but even Daniel's wife, Samantha, gets more to do this time. "That's one of the things we enjoy about the show being on a streaming service," Josh Heald said. "The episodes run for as long as they need to be, so this season we see more of those characters."
"Karate Kid, if you go back to it, it's largely a high school soap opera," said Schlossberg. "The only way these two kids can deal with their rivalry over this girl is through karate. So with this show, we wanted to honor that. There are rivalries, and humor, and of course, karate. But at the heart of it all is a high school soap opera about high school rivalries."
Besides new characters, avid fans can notice new references to the movies--not only the 1984 original, but the sequels too. And Schlossberg teased plenty more nods to come: "Any movie with Mr. Miyagi is part of our canon. So any character in those movies is fair game in terms of cameos, or even storylines coming back. It's all part of the show, having fun with these little nods."
Cobra Kai Season 2 hits YouTube Red April 24.
Disclosure: ViacomCBS is GameSpot's parent company