Season 2 of Cobra Kai — YouTube Premium’s hit continuation of The Karate Kid franchise — will seek to answer one very important question: Is the Valley big enough for two rival karate dojos? After watching Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and his “no mercy” Cobra Kai school take the All Valley championship, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) will make good on his promise to open a kinder, gentler dojo — Miyagi-do — but it’s going to be a lot harder than selling cars. “As we saw in season one with Johnny, it’s not always easy to fill your dojo with students and make an immediate success of it in the valley,” says executive producer Josh Heald. “And with those growing pains comes more rivalry.” EW got more details about season 2 — premiering this spring — from Heald and his fellow executive producers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can you tease about the dojo vs dojo rivalry in season 2?
JOSH HEALD: Obviously we ended season 1 with a moment where Daniel had to decide whether to let Johnny Lawrence take over karate in the valley or whether he was going to do something. So season 2 is definitely going to deliver on Daniel’s promise to reopen Miyagi-do as a full dojo, as a karate school. And what we can tease from dojo vs. dojo is that as we saw in season 1 with Johnny it’s not always easy to fill your dojo with students right away and make an immediate success of a karate dojo in the valley. And with those growing pains, comes more rivalry.
In the new photos, we see Sam (Mary Mouser) all suited up in her gi. As of last season, she hadn’t done karate with her dad since she was a kid. What can you tease about her return to the martial art?
JON HURWITZ: You saw at the end of last season that Samantha’s kind of love of karate is still there and as Daniel opens up this dojo I think it’ll be no secret in the advertising that Samantha finds her way back. You’re going to see a lot of karate from Samantha this year. We have the old rivalries of Johnny and Daniel, and Miguel and Robby, but there’s some new rivalries this season and Samantha Larusso will have a rival of her own.
Oooh, male or female?
Daniel must be very happy that she’s doing karate again.
HURWITZ: Yes, Daniel is thrilled to have his daughter back in karate with him. It’s been a special part of their connection over the years and he’s thrilled to have her back, but she’s entering Miyagi-do at a time when there’s a true thriller going on, dojo vs. dojo as we’ve talked about, and we’ll just see the effect of that on how Daniel’s feeling about it throughout the season.
Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) and Sam left off in a pretty bad place. Will we see a reconciliation, or are we going to be dealing with a love triangle this season?
HAYDEN SCHLOSSBERG: There’s always hope. I mean I think we get caught up in the soap opera of the young characters as much as anybody and I think part of the fun of having these two rival dojos is allowing us to play with the love triangles and new people getting into the mix. It just gets even more complicated and we get to draw on classic teen drama and action like the Outsiders and West Side Story where you have the Montagues and the Capulets, but there’s sort of relationships on both sides. It’s all the fun of soap opera with the action of martial arts.
Johnny and Daniel didn’t fight last season, but they did test-drive a car together and ended up having a pretty good time. I want them to be friends, and I want you to tell me that’ll happen this season.
HEALD: Johnny and Daniel are very complicated characters and they are like oil and water at times, and they’re like peanut butter and jelly at other times. And it’s those moments where they can come together and do come together in the series that are really fun for us to write and witness also, because their camaraderie — both in real life and between these characters in that they have so much shared history, both good and bad — but this rivalry runs deep and I think there’s probably a long road ahead before they can be reconciled.
SCHLOSSBERG: It’s the yin and the yang, and in some ways they seem perfect together but they’re also at odds with each other.
HURWITZ: They have rival philosophies on the world and karate, and sometimes that comes in conflict and can short circuit any potential friendship. But what we can promise in season two is that Johnny and Daniel are in several scenes together. There’s a lot of fun to be had. I think that whatever kinds of dynamics you enjoy with Johnny and Daniel, you’ll probably get a taste of it all. It’ll be a fun season.
We’ve gotta talk about Kreese. Much like Johnny, I was not happy to see him return at the end of the finale. What can you preview about his role in season 2?
HURWITZ: Sensei Kreese has an enormous role in season 2. We’ve taken the original sensei and run him into the mix in Johnny’s world, and this is somebody who has a loaded relationship with Johnny. He’s a father figure and a mentor and he’s also been a guy who has disappointed him greatly and literally tried to choke him to death — the last time that we saw them on screen together. They have a very complicated relationship. You’ll get to see more sides of Kreese this year and I think what I would say is that Martin Kove’s performance is fantastic this year. I think it’s one of the revelations of season two that I think people are going to be talking about — kind of in the way where when you watched season one were sort of surprised and enjoyed seeing Billy Zabka return as Johnny Lawrence in kind of a different way than you had seen before, and the performance was so great — the same can be said about Martin Kove in season 2. He’s excellent and kind of commands the screen whenever he’s there, and it’s fun watching his dynamic with the other characters in the series.
SCHLOSSBERG: I think the big difference between season 1 and season 2 is his presence and everything that he brought to the original Karate Kid, he is bringing to this show — so if you’re a fan of the original it’s like, Darth Vader is back! But because this is a series, like last season, you have more time to go through the layers to understand the character in ways that you maybe will look back on the original movie and think a little differently. It’s going to be fun for fans.
One of the things this show does so well is take these characters from kids to full-fledged, complex adults — and Kreese has always been a cartoonish villain. It’s good to hear that he’ll evolve in some way.
HEALD: I can say everything written all over Johnny’s face in the final frames of season 1, all those emotions of shock, fear, bad history, dysfunctional father coming in from the cold, everything written all over his face whill be fully realized, explored, delved into in an explosive way. That does bring that third dimension to a character that didn’t have that room to inhabit in the original movies.
HURWITZ: Just because you see more of the layers of somebody doesn’t necessarily mean, now they’re the good guy, you know? That’s what we tried to do with Johnny too — you see his side of the story, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s good. It’s still an ongoing debate.
HEALD: We play a lot with philosophies in this show, differing philosophies and how they give that path that you’re on in life… I think with the arrival of Sensei Kreese back in this universe people are going to see that a lot of philosophies get challenged.
Daniel’s ex-girlfriend Ali (played by Elisabeth Shue) came up in season 1, when Johnny and Daniel look her up on Facebook. Any chance that she’ll show up with her hot oncologist husband in season 2?
HEALD: Ali is one of those characters from the movies and in this universe that is very, very important and very integral to the relationship and the rivalry and the dynamic and the history between these characters, and I can say no more than that. [laughs]