The Karate Kid revival show, Cobra Kai, takes a deliberately greyer and more nuanced look at the morality of the original films. Starting from the perspective of the titular villainous dojo, the original antagonist Johnny Lawrence is one of Cobra Kai’s central characters.
However, this greyer morality doesn’t just involve showing a sympathetic side for the erstwhile villains. The actions of Cobra Kai’s heroes and sympathetic characters get a thorough examination, with many of the show’s major happenings being the fault of both sides. As such, there are times when the heroes lie, cheat, or simply make others unable to trust them in other ways.
9 Miguel’s All-Valley Tournament Cheating
As with the original The Karate Kid, the climax of Cobra Kai‘s first season comes at the yearly All-Valley Under-18s karate tournament. Initially, the conflict appears to be between sympathetic characters, pitting protagonists Miguel and Hawk against fellow main character Robby, with even current-champion Xander Stone being a likable character.
It’s at the tournament that the downsides to Cobra Kai’s philosophy become clear. Despite Johnny wanting to improve the dojo, Miguel falls into the same ruthless, cheating mindset that Johnny and his friends succumbed to in Karate Kid. In the most jarring moment, Miguel deliberately aggravates Robby’s wounded shoulder, almost taking him out of the fight and horrifying Johnny.
8 Samantha Not Telling Her Parents About Miguel
In Cobra Kai‘s early seasons, many of Sam LaRusso’s storylines revolve around her relationships, both romantic and familial. In season 1, she and Miguel fall for one another and begin dating. As Miguel is a member of Cobra Kai, Sam hides the relationship from her parents, refusing to tell them about Miguel.
Her decision is understandable considering Daniel’s reaction to Cobra Kai’s return. However, her omissions ultimately cause friction between her and Miguel – as well as her and her parents – and form part of the deadly dominos that lead to the devastating events of the second season’s finale.
7 Robby Failing To Train Kenny Properly
Kenny Payne is a main character introduced in Cobra Kai‘s fourth season. Kenny is the younger brother of Robby’s prison bully, Shawn. Due to the respectful note that Robby and Shawn ended on, Shawn sends Kenny to Robby when he’s struggling with being bullied by Anthony LaRusso.
Having fallen under the influence of Cobra Kai, Robby attempts to train Kenny to defend himself without indoctrinating him into the dojo’s vicious and ruthless mindset. By the end of the season, however, it’s clear that he has failed. Kenny delivers a vicious beatdown to an apologetic Anthony. Having been trusted with bettering Kenny, Robby ends up making him much worse and much more dangerous.
6 Stingray Framing John Kreese
For almost three seasons, Kreese is the primary antagonist of Cobra Kai, being one of the few characters considered as outright evil. He betrays Johnny when he attempts to humanize the dojo, setting himself up as a trainer while forcing them to be more ruthless than ever and hoping to spread a corrupt influence throughout the younger generation.
Ultimately, he’s brought low by an unlikely source. Stingray, a comic relief character from Cobra Kai‘s second season who reappears in the fourth, brings about Kreese’s downfall. After Terry Silver assaults him to the point of attempted murder, Stingray agrees to blame Kreese for it, going as far as lying to the police.
5 Daniel’s Vendetta Against Cobra Kai
The relationship between Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence is fractious and often changing throughout Cobra Kai, but is frequently at its worst when Johnny is in charge of Cobra Kai dojo. Associating the dojo with nothing but repeated trauma, Daniel hates it with a passion and tries his best to bring about its end.
While still a sympathetic character, Daniel’s actions against Cobra Kai are too far and against his good reputation in the valley. The nadir comes when he convinces Cobra Kai’s landlord to double his rents, punishing dozens of other businesses to try to hurt Johnny.
4 Cobra Kai’s Corruption In Season 2
After seeing the effects of Cobra Kai’s philosophy, Johnny makes great efforts to try to instill morals in his students in season 2, warning them against bullying and cheating. For a time, he seems to be making headway. However, his efforts are counteracted by John Kreese, who poisons the students far worse than Johnny ever could.
Having been Cobra Kai‘s sympathetic antagonists for two seasons, the finale of season 2 sees Cobra Kai turn their back on Johnny, siding with Kreese after Miguel’s injury. After that, they become the antagonists of the third season, making life hell for the students of Miyagi-Do and Johnny’s Eagle Fang.
3 Johnny’s Instability When Searching For Robby
A point made throughout Cobra Kai is that, as a result of his troubled youth and particularly the actions of Kreese, Johnny Lawrence isn’t always the most functional person. He struggles with alcoholism, shows dysfunction at difficult times of his life, and is prone to aggressive behavior.
His lowest point is in early season 3 after Cobra Kai abandons him and Robby goes on the run from the law. Daniel recruits Johnny to find Robby but after they beat the employees of a chop shop in a fight, Johnny continues to attack one for information and threatens to kill him. Having counted on Johnny to help him, Daniel breaks off their partnership once again.
2 Sam Baiting Tory In Season 4
One of the most passionate rivalries in Cobra Kai is between Samantha LaRusso and Tory Nichols. Initially flaring because of their romantic ties to Miguel, it is deepened by their differing backgrounds, dojo loyalties, and the numerous crimes Tory commits against Sam throughout Cobra Kai.
After several fights in seasons 2 and 3, a truce is brokered between the dojos until the All-Valley. While Tory attempts to rebuild her life and comes close to honoring the truce, Sam can’t let go of her hatred and spends a lot of her time getting under Tory’s skin. While her actions are understandable, they threaten the truce that is keeping her friends safe and cause problems in her relationships.
1 Robby Lying About Miguel And Mr. Miyagi’s Medal
A major event in the rivalries between the dojos in season 2 comes when Hawk vandalizes Miyagi-Do, including stealing Mr. Miyagi’s Medal of Honor. Not as far gone as his friend, Miguel returns the medal to the LaRusso household, ultimately giving it to Robby.
Robby hides the medal, not wanting to let Miguel get the credit and risk Sam developing feelings for him again. As a result, when a drunken Sam learns the truth, she is upset by Robby’s deception and impressed by Miguel, and kisses him. This leads directly to the climactic brawl of season 2, making Robby one of its most direct causes.