Perspective is a hell of a thing.
The whole concept of Cobra Kai derived from us learning to see everything we thought we knew from Johnny’s point of view. Interestingly, with Terry’s presence during Cobra Kai Season 4 Episode 3 and Cobra Kai Season 4 Episode 4, we’re continuing to see rivalries and more from his perspective too.
As it stands, approaching the midway point of the season, the adults are outshining the kids with intrigue and drama, save for Kenny.
The Johnny/Daniel tenuous allegiance and Kreese/Silver reunion are dramatic foils to one another.
Kreese had this innate ability to activate something in Terry with one meeting. Because of their bond from their experience, Terry abandoned a perfectly great life to help Kreese train a bunch of teenagers.
Young Kreese: Hey, remember, fear does not exist. You can get through anything. You know why? Because you got me. I didn’t leave you behind in the war, and I’m not going to leave you behind now. Cobra Kai.
Young Terry: Never dies.
Terry, though intriguing, is a conundrum. His motivations thus far are murky, and not even a lowkey homoeroticflashback (listen, there were vibes, OK?) of the two getting matching tattoos and talking about Cobra Kai could explain them.
Terry felt indebted to Kreese for saving his life in Vietnam. And even upon returning, the two had a close bond. Cobra Kai was their dream, but the pull of corporate life got in the way of that partnership.
We know Terry bankrolled Cobra Kai initially, and he was present there at times. But what about Kreese showing up 30 years after they stopped speaking to each other prompted this?
Kreese and Terry’s relationship is fascinating for a plethora of reasons — volleying between brotherhood and something else and unpacking what that looks like all these years later is a clever way of freshening the series.
Kreese: As long as LaRusso and Lawrence are together, we have a target on our backs. We have to strike back.
Terry: No. I agreed to come back to do what we originally set out to do, to turn kids into winners, to bring Cobra Kai back to its former glory, but if we’re going to do that, we have to learn from our mistakes.
Kreese: What mistakes?
Terry: You had to entire Valley in the palm of your hand and you blew it, all because of the rivalry you had with Miyagi.
Right now, Terry insists that he doesn’t want to relive the past, and he’s not interested in some of his previous antics from The Karate Kid III, but he felt almost predatorial in his one on one scene fighting Robby.
He called Kreese out on how he loses sight of things with his rivalries, but he seems willing to indulge them regardless.
Something got unlocked in Terry, and his seemingly calm, reserved demeanor seems misleading and makes him scarier and more unpredictable.
You could see the surprise and terror in Daniel’s eyes upon seeing him. Despite how ludicrous it should seem that Terry could trigger such a response from Daniel over decades-old karate beef, Daniel’s palpable discomfort and how this knocks him off his game is enthralling.
Gentlemen, it seems we have a few things to discuss.
Terry [to Daniel and Johnny]
So much of Daniel’s characterization is in him believing he has it all together but carrying the same scars of his adolescence.
It’s no coincidence that he spent most of the two installments as this dependable, earnest mentor to Miguel, the one who has it all together, and one look at Terry shattered that facade.
A kid can have more than one mentor, but you can’t tell that to Johnny, and his envy radiated off of him in every scene.
Daniel and Miguel share many similarities, so it’s only natural that they connect so well when they spend time together.
Their backgrounds as low-income kids raised by single moms cement their bond, and there’s nothing Johnny can do about that, but it doesn’t detract from how important he is in Miguel’s life.
Daniel and Miguel’s scenes are enjoyable. At the moment, it gives Miguel something of interest. Otherwise, he gets stuck as the moral compass and responsible peacemaker between Daniel and Johnny.
While those moments are a reminder of how centered he’s supposed to be in this franchise, when he has nothing else of substance happening to counterbalance that, it’s a waste of Maridueña’s raw talent.
Daniel sees a lot of himself in Miguel, so he didn’t bat an eye over pouring everything into Miguel as he took his time teaching the Eagle Fang kids.
But Daniel knows how tenuous his allegiance with Johnny is, and it isn’t the first time that Johnny got jealous of the closeness between Miguel and Daniel.
You would think Daniel would avoid poking that bear or have some restraint. It was hard not to feel bad for Johnny when Miguel was blowing him off for Daniel.
And even though Johnny isn’t Miguel’s father, Daniel should’ve thought twice about robbing Johnny of an experience by teaching Miguel how to drive. On that note, did anyone else get the impression that Miguel’s father could make a surprise appearance before the season concludes?
As fathers, both men strive to be better, but the unusual tug o war they have mentoring kids and dropping the ball with their own is consistent.
Johnny: I do know about Cobra Kai, Kreese is brainwashing you just like he brainwashed me.
Robby: See, that’s the difference between you and me. You put all your trust in Kreese. I don’t trust anyone anymore. I’m just using Cobra Kai to get what I want.
Johnny: I’m sure you think that But I’m telling you you’re playing with poison.
I know enough. And I know what’s holding me back because for as long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid. Afraid that I would end up like you, but I’m not going to have that fear again because I’m better than you.
So much of the attention Daniel doled out to Miguel could have been directed at other students in need and Anthony, of whom he remains out of touch.
Johnny has placed all of his eggs in the Miguel basket. It’s eating him up that Miguel is getting closer to Daniel, and he’s already having a hard time working up the nerve to tell Miguel he’s dating Carmen.
But there’s no getting around that he doesn’t fight as hard for Robby.
However, as expected, Johnny did manage to bond a bit with Sam, showing her far more grace than she deserved. Sam maintained her father’s level of judgment when it came to Johnny, and she couldn’t even show him respect when he was teaching them.
Sam: I’m a teenager who’s made a couple of mistakes. You’re a 50 something-year-old man who lives alone, drinks all day, and clearly hasn’t figured out his own life.
Johnny: I figured out one thing for sure. If I did everything my parents wanted me to do, I’d be wearing a suit and tie and waiting out some worthless job while I wait out the clock. I didn’t want that. And now I get to do what I love every damn day. I get to help kids like you find their own way. If you want to sit in the backseat your whole life, go right ahead. It’s no sweat off my back
But he read her number at dinner. She doesn’t want to follow in her father’s footsteps and run the dealership. She’s not interested in standing in his shadow.
And if anyone could relate to that, Johnny could. He’s all too familiar with not walking the path others expected of him. It’s something that seems to connect Sam, Johnny, and (based on flashbacks) Terry, too.
While his method of encouraging the Miyagi-Do kids to leap from one building to the next was insane, to say the least, Sam took something valuable away from it.
Her parents have a way of stifling her, and not only does Johnny call her out on her shit, but he can help her grow.
Kyler: Yo, guys, my boy Rory got some free tickets to the drive-in tonight, think they’re going old school … something called Bloodsport.
Robby: I know that movie. My dad left an old VHS at our place. For a while, it’s the only evidence I had that he existed.
In some ways, it feels they’re aware of how irritating she is to many viewers, and they’ve taken measures in having people like Robby and Johnny call her out for what she is.
It’s satisfying because if we have to sit through her mean streak where she antagonizes Tory while Amanda makes excuses for her, at least some characters are over Sam’s Nice Girl shtick.
Why does it seem like Sam and Tory are competing for the reigning queen of annoying?
Right now, Sam is in the lead.
Cobra Kai loves to play with the dichotomy of its characters. In the series, you quickly learn there is no good and evil. Everyone can do good and bad things, and it doesn’t help to paint anyone with a broad stroke.
It’s not uncommon for the concept of “hurt people, hurt people” coming to fruition.
Victims become bullies and vice versa. We’ve seen this arc a dozen times within this franchise.
And Sam has become a full-on antagonist, which is ridiculous considering she had panic attacks over Tory not that long ago. It’s one thing not to want anything to do with your tormentor, but she proudly taunts Tory unprovoked.
Amanda got to see up close how her daughter could be at that little girl’s party. Amanda would’ve intervened if Tory had started something with Sam, but she didn’t check her daughter for stooping to Tory’s level.
Amanda’s new insight into Tory’s background has her more sympathetic to her than ever, but what good is it if she’s actively trying to diffuse things and Sam is goading them?
They’re going out of their way to make Tory sympathetic, and perhaps it’s starting to work a bit. However, they often rely on sacrificing their protagonists to do so, which usually makes it harder to root for anyone with conviction.
It’s happening on a broader scale with Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang kids actively instigating things with Cobra Kai, too.
Amanda is making some headway with Tory, whether she realizes it or not. Her comments about asking for help seemed to resonate with Tory, and it probably won’t be long before she acts on that in some capacity.
It’s interesting to see this setup with the women. In some ways, the Amanda, Sam, and Tory situation is similar to Johnny, Robby, and Miguel or even Miguel, Robby, Johnny, and Daniel.
Sam will inevitably feel betrayed by her mother making this connection with Tory, and it’ll only add fuel to the fire of tension between the girls.
But many of the students have forgotten their roots and taken their rivalry to another level.
Amanda: Just know that the world isn’t out to get you. There has to be someone in your family who can help.
Tory: No one I can trust. It doesn’t matter because I can handle my own shit.
Amanda: Fine. No one can help if you don’t let them. If you ask, you might be surprised.
The high school tour guide who commented on all the state-of-the-art things they used to have before the Valley karate wars provided a hilarious moment.
But Burt, Nate, and Hawk bullying Kenny was not. They all know what drove them to Cobra Kai in the first place, so there’s no reason why they couldn’t look at this scrawny, baby-faced kid and cut him some slack.
Dallas Dupree Young is such a scene-stealer, and he brings that underdog quality that we haven’t experienced since Miguel’s early days in season one. We needed this! We needed him. He’s been the brightest spot of the season thus far.
He sells his genuine fear and helplessness well. Every flinch made you sympathize with the kid and root him on.
Robby sees what we do in him. He has a soft spot for the kid, and thanks to some moves and encouragement, Kenny cemented a place in Cobra Kai after an underwhelming display of cowardice by their standards.
Robby keeps his cards close to the vest and claims he’s using Cobra Kai, but it makes you wonder why he got Kenny involved with Kreese’s dojo when he doesn’t trust him.
Miyagi-Do would’ve been the better fit for Kenny, and as angry as Robby is, he values the time he spent with Daniel.
The approach he’s taken with Kenny is reminiscent of the mentorship he received.
My path wasn’t a straight line, and yours is still being written.
We haven’t gotten the chance to see Kenny in real action yet. Right now, he’s still scared of his shadow, and he hasn’t learned enough to prove himself capable.
It almost felt like we’d get a moment in the bathroom and later at the drive-in. Poor Kenny; in his efforts to defend himself from Anthony and his ilk, he stepped into a turf war of which he’s clueless, and he’s gained more enemies in the interim.
One anticipated a full-blown rumble at the drive-in, and the Miyagi-Fang gang would’ve been the ones in the wrong. When you care about characters on both sides, it is harder to root for one group over another.
Robby working with Cobra Kai and showing them Miyagi-Do’s methods is a slap in the face, but his defending Kenny wins you over. And as irksome as most of the Cobra Kai crew are, their willingness to stand behind the new kid because of their ongoing beef with their rivals is admirable.
Cobra Kai, it was never about revenge. It was about building strength by taking your fears and turning them into a weapon. That’s what we should be focused on, if we’re just going to rehash the past, history will just repeat itself all over again.
Miguel showed how much he’s like Daniel when he opted to turn the sprinklers on Cobra Kai instead of fighting them, but it’s the type of mischievous antics that only adds to the tension and inevitably makes things worse.
The lines between who is in the right and the wrong keep blurring, and ironically, Johnny seems to be one of the few people who sees that.
All of this must come to a head. The All Valley Tournament is likely where it will, but the anticipation is killer until then. All of these kids are foot soldiers in this beef among middle-aged and beyond men who can’t let the past go, and the way that this rivalry keeps trickling down and mutating is surreal.
Like Cobra Kai, the ongoing beef never dies. The All Valley Tournament will be a powder keg waiting to explode, and I cannot wait to see it unfold. How about you?
Over to you, Cobra Kai Fanatics?
Are you surprised by the villainous turn Sam and some of the others have taken? What are your thoughts on Terry? Hit the comments.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.