Sam LaRusso is a bad bitch.
Ironically, the teachings of Johnny via a surprise reunion had Sam “embracing her queenly energy.”
We knew it couldn’t last for so long, but the descent of Miyagi-Fang was brutal and disappointing. Much of the series hinges on Johnny and Daniel’s rivalry running strong, but the redundancy and pettiness of their disagreements are starting to show its wear. It’s only so long they can keep this up before it’s no longer entertaining.
One of the issues is that Johnny has growth. His baseline left ample room for it, so following his journey is gratifying even when he has a series of wins, loses, mishaps, backslides, and triumphs.
Johnny: You still think that your way is the only way. You were so proud when they pulled their little sprinkler prank the other day. But if they stood their ground and kicked some ass like I taught them this would’ve never happened.
Daniel: And if they fight every time they’re provoked where does that lead? Back to the hospital? Or to jail? Just because you spent your fair time in both-
Sam: Enough, dad. Johnny’s right. Doesn’t matter how many times we stand up to Cobra Kai if we don’t strike back they’re going to keep coming at us.
Daniel: And you were worried about my influence on your students? Is this what you wanted Johnny? To have my daughter and the rest of my students acting like you?
In comparison, Daniel is frustratingly stagnant and has no real turning point that is meaningful for too long. We’re in season four, and he’s still too self-righteous for his own good. He’s obstinate, petty, self-important, judgmental, and he doesn’t listen to anyone.
After everything Daniel and Johnny have gone through in their adult time together, it makes no sense that he still clings to this notion of who he believes Johnny is from when they were teenagers.
We’ve seen everyone else’s growth, and others have come to appreciate Johnny’s, making judgments about him but then refiguring them as they get to know him.
However, Daniel could and has seen the best in Johnny firsthand and still will resort to biting remarks, cutting him down, and assuming he’s somehow morally superior to Johnny.
Daniel doesn’t know the meaning of compromise. He constantly expects Johnny to bend to his will because the mere thought that alternative methods or ways of thinking aren’t any less important or valuable is foreign to him.
Daniel spent half of Cobra Kai Season 3, recognizing that there is more to Miyagi-Do, the pedestal he places his mentor and teachings on and that he’ll never stop being a student of life, but then it’s like none of that stuck this season.
He hasn’t taken what he’s learned along the way and evolved like many of the other characters.
At this point, the character in most need of a redemption arc is Daniel LaRusso himself, and he doesn’t even realize it.
Miyagi-Fang fell apart because Daniel changed the rules when it suited him. His mere actions suggested that the temporary truce was a way of indulging Johnny and proving his moral superiority, but he still expects a world where things are his way or no way at all.
The idea of the two fighting after their drunken bickering on the surface is absurd, but you could understand why Johnny needed it. You can’t tear someone down constantly without them needing to prove themselves worthy, and that’s at the core of their relationship in the first place.
The kids were hyped for this fight, and it was well worth it. Johnny and Daniel’s fights are among some of the series’ best, as they’re the most seasoned out of the bunch and sell it better.
Johnny is a damn good fighter, and he probably should’ve taken the thing. Ironically, Daniel was underhanded with his fighting using the nerve move to disarm, if you will, Johnny, which again makes all his assertions gobsmacking.
Daniel: Whose side are you on?
Sam: I’m not on anyone’s side. I just want to learn both styles so I have twice the techniques if I face Tory in the tournament.
Of course, it had to end with a draw, and the Hawk situation escalated things further. It boiled down to their different methods of protecting these kids they care about and Daniel’s inability to view Johnny as anything more than that guy he felt tormented him as a teenager.
As usual, the second Johnny rightfully reacts to Daniel’s treatment or calls him out, Daniel gaslights the shit out of him. We’ve seen this play out dozens of times by now, but there’s hope that it’s coming to a turning point.
While it’s still not clicking with Daniel that he’s a large chunk of the problem, and it’s his grudge-holding and decades of carrying around adolescent traumas or whatever you want to call them, spilling into everyone else’s lives, others are tired of it.
Sam doesn’t mince words with her father, and she sees and is more vocal about his shortcomings. Amanda’s frustration with how they’ve become embroiled in karate beef is longstanding, but her sarcastic reactions to her husband as she attempts to ground him have increased tenfold.
Characters like Robby have bluntly tackled Daniel’s savior issues. Meanwhile, Silver, albeit a questionable source, challenges Daniel to take accountability for his choices and own behavior and knocks him down a peg, prompting him to see himself for the flawed person he is.
Miguel: So if you win we just train Eagle Fang, there’s no Miyagi Do.
Johnny: That’s right, Pontiac.
Miguel: But what if I don’t want to stop learning Miyagi-do.
Johnny: What the hell are you saying? You want him to win?
Miguel: No, I guess the way I see it no matter who wins nobody wins
Johnny: Somebody always wins. That’s how fights work. No matter what ancient philosophical bullshit LaRusso has been feeding you
It’s all promising enough to lay out a path for Daniel to evolve, but it’s also repetitive enough where you remain leary if he’ll ever actually walk it.
But it’s baffling that Daniel is a man who can see the good and feels compelled to save and help kids like Robby, Miguel, and even Tory, but his bias and past prevent him from acknowledging that Johnny was one of those troubled kids who needed saving.
Daniel can acknowledge that Cobra Kai and people like Kreese almost ruined his life and sent him down the wrong path, but despite witnessing how that happened for Johnny, he doesn’t show the man any grace.
And if Daniel can treat Johnny that way in the present, then it’s not the most reassuring for all the kids he tries to save now when he’s sending the message that they’ll never be free of their past.
Miyagi Fang was likely stronger together than they were apart. Their combined skill set, camaraderie amongst the kids, and pooling assets and resources worked for them.
Cobra Kai is not only building up its brand now that Silver is bankrolling it again, but they’re expanding. And with the new rules the board put into place, in that hysterical opening scene of Kicks Get Chicks, Cobra Kai is already ahead of the gate with the various skills categories and the female comp.
Cobra Kai had the strongest fighters, with Robby and Tory at the forefront. Combined, Miyagi Fang had something to work with, but apart, it showcased both senseis’ shortcomings in pouring all of their focus into their pet favorites at the expense of the others.
Without Robby, Daniel lacked prized fighters, and with the separation of boys and girls, the only person with the strongest skills was Sam.
It showed how, when combined, he put all of his energy into Miguel. In the end, Hawk, or are we calling him Eli now(?), had to join Miyagi-Do so they’d have a male champion.
Johnny’s hyperfocus on Miguel meant the others were lacking, and without Hawk and Tory gone, he was not only down two strong fighters, but he didn’t have a female champion to accommodate the new roles.
By now, it’s obvious that Cobra Kai is very much a hit among women as much as men, so the nod at them acknowledging that demographic and the call for more female fighters was on point.
And it led to one of the most singlehandedly funny moments of the series thus far when Johnny attempted to recruit Piper, dazzling her with the “woke feminist” jargon, which he didn’t even understand.
Zabka’s delivery of that spiel with such a straight, earnest face followed by the he doesn’t pee sitting down line after he succeeded was a comedic work of art.
Johnny: Sensei John Lawrence of Eagle Fang Karate. Let me tell you why my dojo is perfect for a modern young woman like yourself. We live in a world where you gotta be an alpha to survive. You’re either a killer or your dead meat. You gotta be a man. At Eagle Fang, we confront that phrase and we make it empowering for all. We teach anyone who identifies as female to embrace their queenly strength and tear down the neo-masculine hierarchy to confront internalized sexism.
Piper: Sounds inclusive. But what about non-binary and gender-fluid?
Johnny: Yes, fluids are crucial, if you don’t hydrate, it affects performance.
He went from trolling young girls at games, coming across like a pedophile, to perfect execution of a blurb from teen magazines.
As victorious as the moment was for Johnny, there was no way he’d keep Piper around when he inevitably resorted to his politically incorrect berating and boorish behavior while training these poor kids in some abandoned factory with black mold. A
nd would he have wanted a girl who was persuaded to Cobra Kai because of their fashion branding?
Burt — we’re putting some respect on the kid’s name for finding their female champion even if Johnny didn’t — found the perfect girl for Eagle Fang with the badass debate chick, and I can’t wait to see her in action.
So much is happening in these installments. We have to juggle so many primary characters that we don’t spend enough time with the secondary and side ones or consistently get to know the newer additions.
I love the energy the new girl is bringing already, but it’s doubtful we’ll get to see much of her.
They’ll need someone with grit after Hawk’s shift to Miyagi-Do. They built up the notion that Miguel would want to switch, but in the end, while disapproving, his devotion to Johnny kept him there.
But Hawk lost all that bravado and edge along with his hair. It’s like it held all of his power, good, bad, and ugly. Just when you got excited by the purple hue to signify his change in both behavior and allegiance, Robby, Tory, and Cobra Kai got him alone and cut his hair all off.
Somehow, it felt more vicious than a beatdown. Spanning cultures, we put a lot of significance and meaning to our hair, and someone chopping it off is one of the utmost offenses and a violation.
The mere act demoralized him and transported him back to the nerdy, hurt kid we first met. Demetri’s valiant efforts to remind Hawk that his hair never defined him seemed ineffective at first.
It was an awakening for Eli, and he reflected on who he became since getting into karate, and he hasn’t been the best person. He saw his shearing as some form of punishment for his actions, and he felt he deserved it.
It was an unexpected direction to take with Eli. He almost seemed to turn on a heel without enough buildup, but Hawk shifting to Miyagi-Do and taking a more passive, defensive approach to karate is brimming with potential, and Jacob Bertrand is so fascinating to watch when it comes to Hawk’s complex journey.
The immediate softness that befell him after the incident was such a contrast to some of Hawk’s previous hardness or even downright psychopathy, and you can appreciate the range.
I ruined my reputation, I talked a big game and in the end, I just proved I was an asshole. To Moon, Miguel, especially to you.
As quickly as it happened, Hawk’s switch-up is compelling, whereas Sam’s, while understandable, isn’t as believable. It’s not that the arc doesn’t make sense for her, but the portrayal of Sam as this jaded badass isn’t convincing.
From Sam’s position, her frustration with her passive father and her parents’ inability to make her feel safe is sensible. Daniel’s obsession with his interpretation of Miyagi-Do doesn’t spare his students from the level of tormenting they’re facing outside the walls of Miyagi-Do.
Many have endured bullying and other things, but it isn’t the same as what Daniel experienced as a youth. Cobra Kai has evolved since then, but Daniel refuses to allow Miyagi-Do to do the same.
Sam doesn’t feel safe, and she’s telling this to both of her parents. Sadly, they’re preoccupied with the past or seeing themselves in children that aren’t their own that they’re too dismissive.
Sadly, Sam had to drive to Santa Barbara for some kind of validation from Aisha. And her takeaway was that there’s merit in Johnny’s teachings about taking control.
The Aisha cameo was an apparent effort to appease the masses who’ve wondered about her sudden disappearance and lack of mention. It was good to see her again, even if it was contrived.
It’s the little surprises that keep you tuned into this series. It’s too bad Aisha couldn’t step in for a bit to fill in the void for Eagle Fang.
In Sam’s mind, Daniel’s refusal to bend, react, or nip things in the bud before they spiral out of control is how they’ve ended up where they are now.
Daniel’s view of what ‘striking first’ means is so narrow that he doesn’t consider why Sam wants to take control of her life. Amanda is so guilt-ridden over how she treated Tory because of her own experiences that she’s stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Daniel expects Sam to be this bigger person, turning the other cheek, and fails to see the toll it takes on his daughter, who isn’t doing well. And Amanda understands matters more than Sam realizes, but as a mother, she also sees and knows more about Tory and wants to help.
She has a more practical approach to the mentorship/savior thing than her husband or Johnny has, but the ramifications still affect and hurt her daughter.
It’s one of the few times where Sam’s feelings are valid, even though she’s privileged. She’ll never know or understand what life is like for Tory, and she doesn’t consider things from that perspective in the least.
Tory: I heard you let me back in Larusso, so I guess I should-
Sam: I don’t know what game you’re playing, but I’m not scared of you. you’re not in control here, I am. My parents might fall for your bullshit, but if you so much as look at me funny, I will kick your ass for a third time. I’m coming for you, bitch
Even when she’s not ill-intended or annoying about it, her rich-girl privilege hinders things. As an extension of her father, she can’t let go of the recent past long enough to understand what her mother is trying to do.
And she has every reason to be angry that her mother is helping a girl who tortured her so severely she has PTSD from it return to the school she was kicked out of to keep Sam safe.
Amanda is in a tough position, though. Naturally, she wants to give Tory a shot. Tory can turn her life around with the right opportunities, and it goes against their nature to think that this is it for kids, and they’ve somehow peaked and will never amount to anything beyond this.
Tory’s aunt Kandace is a terrible woman, and Amanda is right to urge Tory to get some support. She’s dealing with more than any girl her age should be, and the adults in her life are letting her down.
Demetri: Where the hell have you been?
Hawk: Demetri, how did you get in here?
Demetri: Your mom has left the key under the flower gnome since kindergarten. You should really consider increasing security since I don’t know, the karate war!
It’s doubtful that Tory has anything to worry about with her aunt getting custody of the little brother we never see. The woman is unstable herself. But it is possible that Tory’s brother would get put into the system, so her priorities should be proving that she’s capable of taking care of him by herself.
All of this is fleshing out Tory well, and Peyton List is doing a great job of capturing the nuance of this character.
Nevertheless, all that runs through the mind is that Tory always had too much to lose. It makes it more insufferable that she jeopardizes herself and her family so much in the first place.
Even so, for her family’s sake, it’s good that she returned to school. She even has thawed with her interactions with Amanda.
But Sam laying her threat down is the dawn of a new age at the school, with Sam committed to the role of queen her and swearing to make Tory’s life hell.
It’s unfortunate. For once, Tory appeared on the cusp of thanking Sam and headed toward fostering a relationship of begrudging respect. All of that is out the window now.
The role reversal, of sorts, between the two girls now that Tory is at Sam’s mercy is captivating.
Hopefully, Amanda will keep an eye on the situation. Amanda’s revelation that she, too, had a bad experience with getting arrested in her past was illuminating. It gives Amanda more layers.
Daniel: You are not a sensei. You’re a con man. Manipulating people to turn them into something they’re not.
Silver: I didn’t turn you into anything, Danny Boy. I only brought out what was already inside.
Bullshit. You tortured me.
Please. You were a hothead. All I had to do was wind you up and get out of the way. And if you’re being honest with yourself, you know you liked it. You were powerful. Free. You just don’t want to admit there’s always been a little Cobra Kai in you.
She, too, has been a saving grace for the season and deserving of this development and time spent with her.
- I wish we spent more time getting to know Kenny. He was criminally underused in these two episodes.
- Silver is all about fighting smarter rather than harder. His conversation with Kreese at dinner was spot on, and he actually comes across as the most sensible and logical one of them all. Are we supposed to hate him? Because he’s making it damn difficult.
- Is anyone else having a hard time making sense of Robby’s motivations? He acts like he has his own agenda, but he’s also committed to Kreese’s Cobra Kai cruelty. Daniel’s warning seemed to resonate, but also not.
- The board member calling George out for his three marriages is a hero.
- Johnny’s reaction to the girl who told him she was asexual was priceless.
- If you took a shot every time Daniel went on about Miyagi-Do, you’d be comatose before the season conclude
Over to you Cobra Kai Fanatics.
Did you expect Hawk to switch to Miyagi-Do? Are you annoyed with Daniel? Are Sam’s feelings valid? Hit the comments!
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.