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Cobra Kai has been introducing a whole new generation of fans to the infamous karate-based rivalry between Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence and their respective dojos, but even as the hit Netflix series catches up with both characters today and carries on their stories, it never strays from the original Karate Kid films as it expands their universe further.
Case in point: Season 4 reintroduces Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith reprising his role) and once again positions him as the main antagonist to already rave reviews. But while series star Ralph Macchio (AKA Daniel himself) was not too thrilled with The Karate Kid Part III as a movie, he appreciates Cobra Kai drawing on it to give the show added depth.
"It gives us so much story. And what is so wonderful about doing the Cobra Kai series, the creators find ways to take that story and let it evolve and find backstories for characters who might have been thinly written," Macchio tells The Hollywood Reporter in an interview. "There is a larger-than-life element to Cobra Kai. When you break it down, it is kind of ridiculous — but that is why it is so much fun! So you take a character like Terry Silver for this show with those larger-than-life elements and his relationship with Daniel, then add those layers of complexity to his evilness. And now it becomes a refined performance."
As fans of the films may remember, Silver was one of the co-founders of the original Cobra Kai dojo, along with Part I and Part II villain John Kreese (Martin Kove), and one of the main antagonists for The Karate Kid Part III. The plot of that film saw Silver try and take revenge on Kreese's behalf by tricking Daniel into letting him train him for an upcoming tournament — only for Daniel to become more aggressive and even injure himself in the process. He even falls out with Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), though they eventually heal their relationship and begin training together once again.
Cobra Kai builds on all that. Not only did the series bring in Kreese as one of the main antagonists for Season 2 and 3, but Season 4 throws Silver into the mix as well, having only made references to him and the effects of his actions up until now. It makes for a deeper conflict between Daniel, his rival-turned-ally Johnny (William Zabka, also reprising his role), and current nemesis, Kreese and Silver.
"I was not a fan of how the Karate Kid 3 came out," says Macchio, who's spoken out about the movie in the years since its release. "I felt the story was only repeating itself and was not character forwarding for the end of LaRusso. And production-wise, it was being written one way and then changed another way. It was not a smooth ride. In the end, there were parts of the character that I didn’t embrace as well as I did with the original and the first sequel. However, it informs Cobra Kai going forward, clearly with Season 4."
He continues, "On top of that, from the perspective of Daniel as an adult, now we are adding other stakes and elements about his own kids and students. It is remarkable that what I would call the shortcomings of the original franchise are now bearing fruit 36 years later."
Season 4 of Cobra Kai is currently streaming on Netflix.