Ending Explained is a recurring series in which we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old. In this entry, we take a whack at the ending of Cobra Kai Season 2.
Fans who expected Cobra Kai to be nothing more than a lighthearted trip down memory lane were pleasantly surprised with the first season. The Youtube Premium series quickly established itself as a fresh continuation of The Karate Kid legacy, with its main ambition being to lead the saga into the future rather than swimming in nostalgia. That said, the past still has a vital part to play in the story. It hangs over Johnny (William Zabka) and Daniel (Ralph Macchio) like a black cloud, and in Season 2, it comes back to bite them in some unexpected and compelling ways.
It goes without saying that spoilers follow. (But yes, we said it anyway).
The closing moments of Season 1 saw Kreese (Michael Kove), Johnny’s villainous old sensei, make an unwelcome return. We knew he would cause trouble in Season 2, and our concerns were proven right. After conning his way back into Johnny’s life, Kreese uses his powers of manipulation and ruthless teachings to make his evil mark felt once again. For the most part, Cobra Kai has operated in a morally grey zone, with no clear cut heroes and villains. Going into Season 3, however, the show has a big bad in the form of Kreese and it’s going to be up to Johnny and Daniel to put their differences aside in order to defeat him and save the souls of his students.
Of course, the majority of Season 2 sees the titular dojo and Daniel’s newfound operation, Miyagi-Do, attempt to one-up each other. Daniel thinks Cobra Kai is a harmful institution, and his views are reaffirmed when Hawk (Jacob Bertrand) leads a group of miscreants to trash his property and steal Mr. Miyagi’s Medal of Honor. This was all unbeknownst to Johnny, however, whose goal throughout the season is to eradicate Cobra Kai’s bad reputation. He wants to instill honor and values in his students, but Kreese has different ideas. The arrival of Kreese divides the Cobra Kai students. Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) remains loyal to Johnny, but Hawk becomes the pet project of Kreese, which causes the young bully to fully embrace his worst tendencies. As the story progresses, Kreese secretly plots to turn the entire team against Johnny. More on that later, though.
Love also plays a major part in Season 2. Johnny develops stronger feelings for Carmen (Vanessa Diaz), who is the mother of Miguel. He spends the majority of the season daydreaming about her while simultaneously pursuing online dating on the side. Eventually, Johnny lands his dream woman, though, but it doesn’t take long until things go downhill. Elsewhere, we get to see the younger characters embark on their own fresh romantic ventures. After moving in with the LaRusso’s and spending more time with their daughter Samantha (Mary Mouser), Robby (Tanner Buchanan) finally makes his move and succeeds. Samantha isn’t quite over Miguel, though, and she doesn’t hit it off with his new flame — and fellow Cobra Kai badass — Tory (Peyton List). In the end, this bad blood between the girls ultimately leads to tragedy for Miguel.
In the episode “Pulpo,” Samantha gets drunk and kisses Miguel. Unfortunately for the ex-lovers, Tory witnesses the smooching and confronts Samantha about it in the hallway of their high school in the season finale. Robby is present when the dirty laundry is aired in front of the entire school, but before he can share his two cents, Samantha and Tory get into a fight and all hell breaks loose. When Robby tries to stop them from beating the snot out of each other, Miguel appears and attacks him. When their fight draws to a close, Miguel has an advantage over his opponent. But, during those heated moments, he remembers everything that Johnny taught him throughout the season and decides to show Robby some mercy. In a surprise turn of events, however, Robby goes against the honorable teachings of Daniel and attacks Miguel from behind, which causes his foe to fall over the stairwell and land on his spine. Ouch, indeed.
The final moments of the episode are dramatic, to say the least. For a start, Johnny’s new love interest wants nothing to do with him because she blames karate for her son’s situation. Afterward, we learn that Kreese has taken over the dojo because Johnny only had a handshake agreement with the building’s owner. The owner wasn’t Johnny’s biggest fan and was more than happy to let Kreese rent the dojo instead.
As for the Cobra Kai students, they opt to pay their allegiance to Kreese because they blame Johnny for what happened to Miguel. By teaching them to be merciful fighters, their friend got seriously hurt. We won’t see any of that mercy nonsense under Kreese’s tutelage, though. After losing everything, we see Johnny sitting on the beach. His phone beeps, but in a moment of anger, he decides to throw it away without even checking the notification. The episode closes with a shot of the phone highlighting a friend request from Ali Mills, his high school ex who fell in love with Daniel in the original 1984 film.
There’s a lot to look forward to going into the next season. The return of Mills is bound to cause further friction between Johnny and Daniel given that they both had strong feelings for her in the past. Still, they’ll have to overcome their issues with each other if they’re going to defeat Kreese. Despite their rivalry throughout the first two seasons, there was a few moments of growth between Johnny and Daniel which saw them reach temporary truces. There’s potential for unity there.
There’s a moment in Season 2 where Robby tells Johnny that he and Daniel “could learn a lot from each other.” If Season 2 proved anything, it’s that the long-time rivals have shared ideals about honor and integrity. The only thing that’s different is their teaching methods. But maybe Johnny’s more aggressive tutoring coupled with Daniel’s nicer approach to karate will make for an interesting combination.
The impending arrival of Mills (and the long-awaited return of Elisabeth Shue) could also be the happily-ever-after love interest that Johnny is looking for. Perhaps in their middle-age, they’ll manage to overcome the relationship difficulties they experienced together as teenagers. The romance between the pair took place before the events of the first film, so it’ll be interesting to see Season 3 dive into their past some more. Whatever happens, though, the next season is going to be exciting.