Cobra Kai Season 4 Ending Explained: Rivalries Don't Need To Last Forever

"Cobra Kai" has had some epic endings in the first three seasons, but the fourth season finale was particularly huge! There are going to be some major changes coming in season 5, from Cobra Kai's leadership and rivalries to a face from the past that is going to shake up Miyagi-Do forever. I'm breaking down the biggest revelations from the "Cobra Kai" season 4 finale, so there are absolutely SPOILERS ahead. There will be no further warnings and no mercy! 

Before I jump into the big events that will change the face of karate in the San Fernando Valley forever, I have to give credit where credit is due. There is a line in this season about how no one wants to be the only person in the Valley who doesn't know karate. I watched it on a plane, and I definitely freaked out the person next to me by laughing heartily. "Cobra Kai" is a goofy show. There is no doubt about it. But it's also got a huge amount of heart, addresses bullying, PTSD, family dynamics, how people can change, letting go of anger, and personal responsibility. When the soap opera stuff happens, I'm here for it, because I know that underneath all the silliness, this is a show about people who are passionate about something. Oh wow, does that pay off in this episode!

Healing Old Wounds

Let's start with Johnny and Daniel. As you recall, these two tried working together, combining the defensive style of Miyagi-Do and the offensive style of Cobra Kai (which Johnny has taken to Eagle Fang). It didn't go well for them, but it obviously worked (to varying degrees of success) on the students. Hawk was able to use what he learned in Cobra Kai to make his style stronger. Sam used Cobra Kai to face down her fears and her pseudo-princess persona to become a badass that would have won it all, if there hadn't been something else going on. The defensive style also allowed the hotheads in the group to focus.

What's even better is that Johnny learned to soften a bit and allow himself to really care for people. Meanwhile, Daniel discovered that slavish devotion to defense only leaves you open to attack. This sort of calm parenting style also let his son Anthony slip through the cracks and become a bully. Daniel also realized that his wife had a rough childhood and a violent incident that allows her to understand what Tory is going through at home. She never told him about this before.

In the end, after Eagle Fang gets kicked out of what we find out is a rigged competition, Daniel realizes he needs Johnny's help, and they combine to form a Voltron sort of dojo that is, for the rest of this tournament, Miyagi Fang. This acknowledgement of each other's strengths gives Johnny the impetus to bond with his son and Miguel, and it gives Daniel the determination to take Miyagi-Do into the future with more force and realize that his daughter has to walk her own path while he walks his own. He even remembers (in a flashback) what Mr. Miyagi said to him about bonsai trees. They grow their own way, and he will as well. His honoring of his sensei blinded him to the real meaning of the bonsai trees that he never let himself focus on. (Maybe that's why his bonsai tree business failed.)

Fight Fair

The tournament was a crazy one. For the first time ever, we have a female champion competition. I love that they focused on that. Of course, we knew that many of our favorites were heading into the finals before anything started. This is a TV series, after all. But there were still a whole lot of surprises here. Miguel was injured and decided not to return to the competition. Considering he won last time, this was a big one. We'll get to why, but what he learned was that he was doing this for the wrong reasons. He was fighting to win, not because it was what he wanted. It's not that he doesn't love karate, but it became about rivalries and impressing Johnny and Daniel rather than himself. I'm just glad Yaya was proud of him! 

I have to say, the fighting was absolutely badass this season! It appears that every single cast member trained hard between seasons, because I could feel those punches! We'll take on Robby and Eli and Tory and Sam in a sec, but I want to call out the prowess of Demetri, freshly off his bestie renewal with Hawk. He was incredible! I've loved that character since the first time he appeared, and I love seeing my fellow nerds get powerful in the physical world as well as the virtual one. 

I think the big thing that we all should take away from this tournament is that it didn't matter who you root for or who you expect to win for story reasons. Everyone did really well, and no one was eliminated. There were also extenuating circumstances here, because of a certain ponytailed character. Also, the moment Daniel tells Daryl the announcer to identify Sensei Lawrence by his titles was beautiful. 

Papa Can You Hear Me?

There were daddy issues all over this season of "Cobra Kai." Sam asserting her independence from Daniel, Miguel's embarrassment of riches in the father figure department, and Robby hating his real father were all key story points. We could even put in Kreese's weakness for Johnny in here. The big relationships, however, were between Johnny and Robby, Johnny and Miguel, and Miguel and his real dad.

Johnny is really trying with Miguel. He's doing his best to inspire him and treat him the way Johnny wanted to be treated. It's obvious that Johnny looked at Kreese as a father back in the movies before the emotional breakup between them, and we know his own dad left him too. Johnny knows he screwed up with Robby, and it kills him. We see that when he gets drunk. When Kreese just stands there as Terry beats him, he feels betrayed again and tries to get Miguel to keep fighting like he did. He really loves that kid, and as we know, Miguel loves him as well. These boys are the reason Johnny has come so far. Sadly, Miguel is jealous of Robby (understandably so) and decides to sneak down to Mexico to find his biological father, who is believed to be a criminal, as far as we know. Unfortunately, we learn that Miguel's mom never told his father that he was born. Next season is going to be a mess for Miguel, and Johnny is off to Mexico to find him.

But perhaps the biggest moment between fathers and sons came when Robby realizes that all the anger he's been carrying is polluting him. After Robby listens to Kreese and Silver and hurts Kenny in competition, he watches Kenny, a lovely and bullied kid, turn mean while beating up his own bully, Daniel's son. This breaks Robby, and he finally finds Johnny and hugs him in tears. His anger is finally gone, and I may have cried on the plane while I watched that scene.

Shirtless Marvel Moments for Our Heroes

The big fight for the dudes was between Robby and Eli, AKA Hawk. Yeah, his mohawk may be gone, but we certainly saw that tattoo, as both guys had their Marvel shirtless moment. (See? They have been training!) It was a powerhouse of a fight, and though there were some bad calls, Hawk takes Robby down. This could have gone either way with their parallel skills, but as Daniel tells Hawk, he was a Cobra Kai longer than Robby. Though we didn't see much of how this is going to affect Hawk going forward (other than Moon rooting for him), it's bound to shake things up in season 5. 

What we also see in this fight (and the stuff surrounding it) is that Kreese cares for Robby and wants him to take over Cobra Kai. Plus, Hawk is letting some of his anger go and remembering who he was before he was "Hawk," and that's what allows him to channel his power. It wasn't about putting on a persona. Moon says she likes him because of who he is. The hairstyle wasn't doing the fighting. He was. In trying to make up for his bullied past self and pretending to be someone he wasn't, he became more bluster and less Eli. That's gone now, and Eli is back, complete with "Star Wars" references, "Dungeon Lord Legacies," and everything else. 

As far as Robby, we realize that some of his anger has left as well. He's concerned for his friend and tries to make this a competition, not a vendetta. Oh, how our babies have grown!

Queen Cobra vs. Bonsai Badass

The biggest rivalry this season was Tory vs. Sam. They've been battling all season and for good reason. Tory is violent, and Sam is really hateful. The thing is, they probably could have been friends, or at the very least friendly competitors, if things had been different. It's something Sam's mother Amanda sees. Even though Amanda threatened Tory this season, when she finds out about Tory's mom and her circumstance, she does her best to help. Even better, Amanda tells Tory not to hurt Sam while also encouraging her not to pull back in the competition. It's a strong and compassionate move, and it's one of the reasons why Amanda is my favorite. She had a violent incident in her past, so she understands. Finally having someone truly reach out to her helps Tory let go of some of her anger (we're sensing a theme this season). Kreese cares about her as well, going easy on her instead of telling her to cheat or fight dirty like Terry Silver does. Kreese cares for these kids in his own destructive way. 

Sam has finally realized that being the goody-goody without any actual compassion isn't who she is. She also isn't a pushover. She finally breaks away from Daniel's all-defense style and gets her own repressed anger out. This was another really powerful fight, and as you can see, Sam should have won. She would have if not for a few bad calls. I liked that. I also liked that it wasn't about who was a better person. It was about the fight. Another nice touch was that Tory, finally being shown some care, actually worried that she'd really hurt Sam. They hate each other, so that was a huge step that will have implications next time we see our fair snake and bonsai. Tory won, but uh-oh, it's not all trophies and parties to celebrate. 

Everyone Has a Weakness

Even recalling what a jerk Terry Silver was back in "The Karate Kid Part III," what happens with him this season is pretty upsetting. He'd finally gotten his life in order (empty though it was) and in comes Kreese to drag him back to Cobra Kai, his life debt, and his anger. Terry embraced his ugly side (despite the fact that Thomas Ian Griffith has aged particularly well in the looks department) and used psychology to twist up his students and Kreese. He calls Kreese out on his weakness for some of his students (though he doesn't reveal the nature of Kreese's weakness until the end), and when Kreese tries to guilt him with a reminder that he saved Terry's life in Vietnam, he finds a powerful way to get revenge. Terry says everyone has a weakness, and I'm sure we'll be seeing his next season.

In the meantime, Kreese is actually starting to realize that he does love these kids in his own awful way. He reverses what he did to Johnny, telling Tory not to cheat or do an illegal move, but it didn't help. Terry brings Kreese to his home to toast Cobra Kai's victory in the tournament and celebrate the new Cobra Kai franchises in the Valley. What Kreese doesn't know is what Terry did before the tournament. 

We'll leave the big one until the end, but if you recall, Terry beat Stingray (who just wanted to be a Cobra Kai so bad) into a coma. When he wakes, he pins the crime on Kreese. Of course, we learn that Stingray lied because Terry will let him into Cobra Kai if he implicates Kreese in the crime. So Kreese is off to jail, and Terry grins his famous grin as it happens. That wasn't the only plan he had in motion.

That Was a Bad Call

Terry appear to have made a deal with the ref (and likely is the reason Carrie Underwood showed up to sing this season) to ensure Cobra Kai's victory. This is a huge piece of information, and Tory, who has just won the women's title, is the one who sees the deal finishing up. She's the key to everything for season 5. We know Daniel is going to have some qualms about the decision he makes at the end of the episode. Miyagi-Do (and Eagle Fang) are supposed to disappear from the Valley now that Cobra Kai has won, but if Tory reveals this, it will make all those qualms go away. Will she? Maybe. 

Tory has learned what it's like to have someone be kind to you for no (or at least very little) reward. She knows the calls  thatthe ref made were bad. She knows that Sam should have won. Will she take a win that she's finally been able to get for herself and keep this a secret? Will she use it to hold over Terry? That's probably not the best idea, considering this guy's idea of justice. Will she and Sam make up after she showed concern for the accidental wrong kick? Will Amanda's compassion for her mean she's reveal the cheating so it gets to Daniel? There is no way of knowing, but any one of these outcomes will be amazing to watch. Terry Silver, you bad, bad man.

Nose Hook

Perhaps you recall the second "Karate Kid" movie where Daniel's Okinawan rival Chozen Toguchi, nephew of Mr. Miyagi's rival and former friend Sato Toguchi, was humiliated by a nose hook instead of the death blow he volunteered to take. Last season, we saw Daniel and Chozen's rivalry revisited, but we learned that Chozen had forgiven it all after a suicide attempt and subsequent help from his uncle. Chozen and Daniel are buds now, and he taught Daniel the pressure point technique that can numb limbs. Chozen gave Daniel a scroll from the Okinawan Miyagi-Do that has this move. 

The version of this style of karate from Okinawa wasn't actually all defense. That was just what Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel, despite telling Daniel to find his own path and style. Since Daniel realizes in the tournament that he needs offense to be balanced, he's open to expanding his style. He goes to Mr. Miyagi's grave and it sounds like he's asking for forgiveness from his sensei for breaking the agreement to close Miyagi-Do since they lost. What he's really doing is calling in Chozen to help him teach the offensive side. Chozen agrees, and ooh, this is going to be good! There's another anger release story here, since that's exactly what Chozen had to do to move on with his life. 

One last thing. Terry Silver does say that he will "dig up an old friend or two to help out with Cobra Kai," but we have no specific indication of who that might be. Maybe one of the old Cobra Kai students Johnny trained with? Jerry? Jimmy? Tommy? Bobby Brown? Dutch? Maybe Mike Barnes from the third film? We'll just have to wait and see what happens whenever season 5 rolls around.