Cobra Kai stands out as somewhat of a small miracle. A sweet slice of nostalgia that both adds, and enhances, the legacy of the Karate Kid film franchise from the 1980s and early 90s, it takes old villains and gives them depth, shades the heroes of yesteryear with previously unexplored complexities and doubts, and even lassos the weakest entries of the series and gives them new play and, in doing so, redemption.
Cobra Kai gained acclaim in its first season for shedding new light on the rivalry between Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), but then the series gained even more traction by bringing in additional past Karate Kid-ers, including The Karate Kid Part II players Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita) and Chozen (Yuji Okumoto), and the long-awaited return of Ali, with Elizabeth Shue reprising her role from the original film. Plus, Johnny’s old Cobra Kai high school pals Tommy (Rob Garrison), Bobby (Ron Thomas), and Jimmy (Tony O’Dell) all showed up for an emotional mini-arc, and they even brought back the little girl who Daniel saved during the storm in Part II, Traci Toguchi as Yuna!
Now The Karate Kid Part III’s conniving Terry Silver has joined the mix in Season 4, with Thomas Ian Griffith back as Kreese’s Vietnam war buddy turned Cobra Kai financial backer. With Kreese and Silver joining forces once more, and Johnny’s own son Robby (Tanner Buchanan) harnessing his bitterness as lead student at Cobra Kai, the heart of the Valley is on the line. Johnny and Daniel have joined forces and combined their dojos – Eagle Fang and Miyagi-Do – in order to take out the cruel competition once and for all.
With the show being way into plucking faces from the past films for superb story fodder, we’ve drawn up a list of characters from The Karate Kid’s past who could still pop up on Cobra Kai and have some impact – especially since it’s already been picked up for Season 5. There’s one very notable character (played by a two-time Oscar winner) fans are often asking about, of course, but she’s not the only one we’d like to see return…
Let’s dig into the films chronologically here and start with the first movie, from 1984, and the slithery, angry character of Dutch. We’ve seen three of Johnny’s old high school / Cobra Kai pals return (including “Get him a body bag!” Tommy, in a poignant final performance by Rob Garrison before he passed away) but not “second-to-Johnny” goon Dutch, played by Chad McQueen.
Cobra Kai’s showrunners have previously said that McQueen’s now retired from acting and couldn’t make time in his schedule for a comeback but… never say never. It’s worth noting Dutch was the most malicious pupil of the original Cobra Kai bunch. He didn’t even try to stop Kreese from beating on Johnny at the beginning of Karate Kid Part II like the others and we’ve learned via mentions over the course of Cobra Kai that his adulthood has seemingly not calmed him at all, leading to multiple arrests and time in prison. If Kreese and Cobra Kai is still on the hunt for ruthless allies, Dutch would be a top pick.
Though already getting a nod on Cobra Kai in Easter egg form (Fernandez Meat Co’s frozen meat locker was used by Daniel for training), South Seas apartment “Makin Bacon” teen Freddy, played by Israel Juarbe, hasn’t appeared in-person on the new series, other than in a flashback to the first movie.
Daniel’s first friend when he moved to Los Angeles, Freddy is arguably responsible for this entire saga occuring when he purposefully kicked a soccer ball over to Ali on the beach in The Karate Kid so that Daniel would have a reason to talk to her. This in turn immediately led to a jealous Johnny angrily approaching her, Johnny and Daniel’s initial violent confrontation, and, well… a franchise that is still going strong 37 years later.
But who knows? Perhaps Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang will need some cold new training digs in Season 4 (or 5). Freddy for sure owes Daniel after he and other friends more or less ditched our Reseda hero after Johnny beat him up following that aforementioned beach moment (even if they cheered him on at the All-Valley later on) Maybe that’s why Daniel gets free use of Fernandez facilities.
With Terry Silver back, it would totally work to bring back gun-for-hire “Bad Boy of Karate” Mike Barnes, who was played by Sean Kanan in The Karate Kid Part III. Since Johnny was nowhere to be found in Part III, it would be exciting to see how Johnny and Mike, both former Cobra Kai a-hole hotheads, interact.
Or who knows? Maybe Mike is totally a man of peace now, and has devoted his life to non-violence and yoga? There are many different ways to go but it’d be a shame if Daniel’s second All Valley Tournament finals opponent got left out in the cold.
After unceremoniously breaking up with Ali off-screen between the first two movies (which was nicely resolved in Season 3 of Cobra Kai), Daniel had a romance with Kumiko in Japan and then a “just friends” deal with Robyn Lively’s pottery-making Jessica (she had a boyfriend in Ohio or something) while he was dealing with some latent anger issues in The Karate Kid Part III.
If anyone knows how badly Daniel can be affected by Terry Silver (and Mike Barnes), however, it’s Jessica, so it’d be wonderful to see Lively return for a Cobra Kai stint. Perhaps one that could give her more to do as a character. After all, she and Daniel almost died on the edge of a cliff trying to dig up a valuable bonsai tree. She’s seen some s***.
Plus, Lively was left out of the Twin Peaks revival. She’s due for her shot at reprising one of her roles from a famous franchise!
With Ali appearing at the end of Season 3, the last truly huge get left for Cobra Kai, obviously, would be Hilary Swank coming back as Julie. Not just because she’s gone on to become a two-time Academy Award winning actress but because… Julie WAS a freakin’ karate kid! The next one, in fact.
Julie would be an interesting addition to the series since we’re not sure how much Daniel even knows about her. They both have Mr. Miyagi in common but how much did Miyagi talk about her to Daniel? Would the existence of Julie come as a surprise to Daniel, who may not have known Miyagi trained someone else, is he vaguely away of her, or does he know all about her and they have shared their respective memories of their beloved former sensei? Either way, as fans, we simply must know what became of Julie after the credits rolled on her movie. On top of that, Swank’s roles since The Next Karate Kid, including in Million Dollar Baby and last year’s The Hunt, prove she’s still more than capable of still expertly brawling on screen.
With Julie could also obviously also come Chris Conrad’s Eric McGowen, who was her love interest in The Next Karate Kid, as well as the “Johnny” of that movie, Michael Cavalieri’s Ned Randall. Though it’s a couple of other Next Karate Kid players we’d be most excited to see after Julie herself…
Colonel Paul Dugan
Johnny, Kreese, Chozen, Silver… Cobra Kai loves bringing back the big gun villains from the franchise. And though Julie fights and bests Ned in the climax of The Next Karate Kid, it’s Michael Ironside’s Colonel Paul Dugan who’s running her school’s Alpha Elite cadet program, instilling a warped sense of duty and authority into his trainees.
Look, let’s face it, Michael Ironside is just implicitly awesome, which is why it’d be awesome to get Ironside to pop in as Dugan.
Okay, so Charlie wasn’t hugely important to The Next Karate Kid. He was part of Col. Dugan’s Alpha Elite program, which showcased Ned as its top brutal boy dishing out the beatings. Charlie was really just one of the background thugs… BUT he was played by Walton Goggins, who has since become a notable and beloved star in both film and TV.
That being the case, even as a single scene goof (perhaps tied to Julie showing up?), just for the Goggins of it, Charlie coming back would be amazing.