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Cobra Kai Creator Explains How The Netflix Series Continues Honoring The Karate Kid As The Story Keeps Growing

Tanner Buchanan in Cobra Kai.
(Image credit: Netflix)

Cobra Kai started as a series that primarily relied on The Karate Kid lore to tell a fresh story. Now that the Netflix show has Season 5 on the way, however, it’s fair to say that the acclaimed series has managed to create its own interesting characters and plot developments and doesn't need to lean on the past as much. With that in mind, continuing to honor the classic film series and characters like Mr. Miyagi might be more challenging than it once was. And one of the co-creators of the show recently fielded a question on that very subject at an event. 

Series co-creator Hayden Schlossberg was one of several TV creatives to take part in  Variety’s A Night In The Writer’s Room event, where he talked about how the show continues to pay tribute to The Karate Kid as the Cobra Kai world expands. Schlossberg explained that while there are a lot of new stories in the show’s universe, they haven’t lost sight of the fact they still need to respect what's come before:

It's fun, you expand the universe. You have new characters, and with new characters [a] new perspective, new backgrounds, and so that brings the modern element to it. But we start out with, 'Hey, remember the roots.' The Bonsai tree grows and you get to explore different types of characters in a TV series that you wouldn't in a movie. But the roots are bullying, mentors, it's overcoming things, it's dealing with the past. It's that visceral feeling of feeling weak and then somebody gives you something. On this show it's karate, but in life it can be a million different things that changes you and give you confidence. And so each season, by each season finale there's some crazy thing that's happening.

The Netflix hit might be rapidly expanding the universe launched by the '80s film franchise but, as the writer and EP mentioned, the framework or “roots” of the film series are present every step of the way. The show is still very much about bullying, and, at this point, there’s been more karate than maybe even the original movies offered. 

Hayden Schlossberg continued by explaining how the Cobra Kai cast specifically honors The Karate Kid but also adds to its history. While talking about what makes both the show and movies great, Schlossberg discussed the universal appeal of the martial arts-centric franchise:

It gets to 'The soul of the Valley is dependent on who wins this nunchuck fight.' But at the core of it is what I fell in love with The Karate Kid, why it's a classic. The different cultures meeting, people you wouldn't expect to be connecting [are] connecting. Every year we're like, 'Okay, let's forget everything for a second and go back to The Karate Kid. Why do we love this?' We watch the movie again. And that's why I think it's worked on a global level, because they're universal stories. So we try to focus on that, while taking advantage of different characters, genders, backgrounds and play things out so it feels like The Karate Kid but it's something totally different.

Season 5 is on the way for those with Netflix subscriptions and will follow up on the wild ending of the fourth season. I can’t imagine how the show will resolve Terry Silver’s betrayal of John Kreese or how the results of the All-Valley tournament will impact the main characters. But still I’m excited to watch and am wondering if  an unexpected character from The Karate Kid happens to make an appearance. Whatever happens though, it's clear that Hayden Schlossberg and his collaborators are going to continue to blaze new trails while never forgetting the past. And that's something fans should be grateful for.

Cobra Kai Season 5 premieres on Netflix on Friday, September 9th. We still have some time to wait but, luckily, there’s no shortage of new shows on television at the moment to keep folks occupied until then. 

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.