Cobra Kai team breaks down Johnny and Daniel's epic [SPOILER]
Warning: This story contains spoilers from Cobra Kai season 4, episodes 1-5.
Conflict resolution can be tricky — especially for grown men who are still upset about an unusually intense karate tournament that happened nearly 40 years ago.
This season on Cobra Kai, rivals-turned-tentative-allies Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) try all sorts of ways to get over their disagreement over which style of karate is the "best" — the balanced defense of Daniel's Miyagi-Do or the aggro offense of Johnny's Eagle Fang.
The simmering tensions finally erupt into a rolling boil in episode 5, leading to the rematch fans have been dreaming about for nearly four decades. With the tournament looming, Daniel and Johnny decide to settle their debate on the mat. Shooting the showdown ran from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. on the outdoor Miyagi-Do set in 40-degree Atlanta weather. "In between the fighting, they would put us in a van to keep us warm," says Zabka. "They literally would put hot towels on the rubber mat because if you stepped on it, it was like ice." Cobra Kai's stunt coordinator Ken Barefield and fight coordinator Don Lee choreographed an intense, two-and-a-half-minute match blending Daniel's Miyagi-Do Okinawan style and Johnny's Tang Soo Do Cobra Kai style, culminating in an epic win for… nobody?
"They had Johnny win [in the script], but then Ralph wouldn't have that," jokes Zabka. "The rematch between Daniel and Johnny was really exciting to read on the page. We just wanted it to be done really well." Adds Macchio, "There was a lot of pressure in a good way for us to deliver and the writers to deliver, and our stunt team choreographed something great. It's two opposing styles, which really came through, and a spectacular music score under that scene — one of my favorites of the season. I don't think it disappoints."
True... but a draw? Really? Didn't the writers ever consider giving one of their protagonists the win? "It was always a draw for us," says Josh Heald, who created the show with Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. "These characters are so passionate, in terms of whose karate is 'better,' in quotation marks. The show is giving you that Yin and Yang, exploring [how] it's not better, it's just different. It goes to that theme over and over again. Giving one of them a win at this stage of their lives, after they've come so far with their exploration of each other's karate, and with their own interpretation of their masters' karate — it would have felt inauthentic."