No mercy: 'Cobra Kai' dojo expands in Season 5

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Sarah Passingham / TV Media
Thomas Ian Griffith in "Cobra Kai"

Thomas Ian Griffith in "Cobra Kai"

The beloved Karate Kid franchise reboot, "Cobra Kai," began as the 1984 film's villain, Johnny Lawrence — reprised by original actor William Zabka — dusted off the titular dojo and reopened its doors to a new group of students in Season 1. Now, after several years of crane kicks and drama, Season 5 begins.

The new chapter of "Cobra Kai" premieres Friday, Sept. 9, on Netflix, with the infamous dojo in a markedly different place than when the series first began.

Not only is the dojo under the management of another original film antagonist, Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith, "The Karate Kid Part III," 1989), following the results of the All-Valley Tournament in Season 4, but Terry also has renewed confidence in the future of Cobra Kai and his discipline.

If you aren't caught up with Season 4 of "Cobra Kai," this is your warning that spoilers lie ahead.

Following the crowning of Terry's Cobra Kai students at the tournament, the mogul announced his intentions to franchise the dojo and open several locations across the valley. With Terry's signature ruthless fighting style leading the karate discipline in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley, there is no telling just how violent the next All-Valley competition could get.

That said, "Cobra Kai" isn't all about the baddies; the series boasts a well-rounded cast of returning favorites and new additions, including Ralph Macchio ("The Outsiders," 1983), reprising his childhood role as the films' Daniel LaRusso, who is now a successful car dealership owner. And while "Cobra Kai" could not be an accurate continuation of the stories of the Karate Kid franchise with a cast of men in their 50s, there is still a lot of young talent on the series' roster.

The karate kids of "Cobra Kai" are Tanner Buchanan ("Designated Survivor") as Robby Keene, Johnny's once-estranged son; Xolo Maridueña ("Parenthood") as Miguel Diaz, Johnny's neighbor who initially inspires him to reopen the dojo; Jacob Bertrand ("Kirby Buckets") as Eli Moskowitz, Miguel's friend whose confidence gets an overhaul when he joins the dojo; Mary Mouser ("Freakish") as Samantha LaRusso, Daniel's daughter and karate protégé; and finally, Peyton List ("Light as a Feather") as Tory Nichols, who is taken under Terry's wing at Cobra Kai and, taking after him, lands an illegal hit on Samantha in the All-Valley Tournament.

Sadly absent from the revival is the franchise's beloved actor Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, whose breakout performance as Daniel's mentor, Mr. Miyagi, in the original films earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the 1985 Oscars. Morita died in 2005, but his character is memorialized in "Cobra Kai" when Daniel visits his grave to connect with his former teacher in the show's first season.

Tanner Buchanan and William Zabka in "Cobra Kai"

Tanner Buchanan and William Zabka in "Cobra Kai"

The presence of Miyagi's discipline is felt in the series, even when it is not explicitly being referenced, something Macchio told The Hollywood Reporter was essential in "Cobra Kai."

"That was something that was so important to me, to have the character woven throughout the series," Macchio explained. "It is paying great respect to the character [— an] homage to our partnership and that magic that we shared, that special connection."

The action dramedy "Cobra Kai" has taken an interesting route for a revival in more ways than one. First of all, the series flipped the script from the perspective of the good guy, Daniel, to his one-time rival, Johnny, whose motivations were more simplified in the films.

Down and out at the beginning of "Cobra Kai," Johnny finds something to (literally and figuratively) fight for by reopening the dojo.

The passion that fans and the cast of "Cobra Kai" have for the show was evident when the series found itself without a place to air its already completed third season back in late 2020. Having streamed its first two seasons on YouTube Red (now called YouTube Premium), the series was dropped after the website's decision to stop producing original content. Already a viewer and critic favorite, however, "Cobra Kai" found a home on Netflix, and the rest is history.

A trailer for the upcoming season of "Cobra Kai," released by Netflix in May, sees Daniel passionately taking a stand against Terry's unsafe, "no mercy" style of fighting. Johnny and Robby are also on a mission for Miguel in Mexico, granted, with no real plan, and Terry's sinister dojo expansions begin to take shape.

In an interview with Deadline, Zabka opened up about the once-in-a-lifetime experience of reviving the original "Karate Kid" (1984) characters with Macchio.

"Ralph and I had been friends off-camera for many years, but all of a sudden there we were, personifying these guys again, and it just happened again like it did in the old days," Zabka said. "The spirit of '[The] Karate Kid' ... is with us now on the show."

Don't miss the Season 5 premiere of "Cobra Kai" when it waxes onto Netflix Friday, Sept. 9.