WARNING: Spoilers for Cobra Kai season 2.
Cobra Kai season 2 ends in tragedy for Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), and the students of both the Cobra Kai and Miyagi-Do dojos. Both Daniel and Johnny must face the ramifications of their failures as senseis; Daniel's dream of continuing Mr. Miyagi's teachings ends while Johnny loses both his prized pupil Miguel (Xolo Maridueña), who is hospitalized with serious injuries, and the Cobra Kai dojo itself, which is stolen by John Kreese (Martin Kove) after a violent brawl that exceeded anything fans saw in The Karate Kid movies.
Cobra Kai season 2 picks up immediately from the events of season 1 and spans the entire summer, just like The Karate Kid, Part II did. At the end of Cobra Kai season 1, Miguel won the All-Valley Karate Tournament for Cobra Kai and Kreese reappeared, wanting a piece of Cobra Kai as its original founder. Meanwhile, Daniel rebuilds Mr. Miyagi's house and opens it as the new Miyagi-Do dojo, with his daughter Sam (Mary Mouser) and Johnny's estranged son Robby (Tanner Buchanan) as his first students. Daniel's plan is to fight Cobra Kai with a different brand of karate before Cobra Kai's influence consumed the kids of the San Fernando Valley.
Throughout Cobra Kai season 2, the two dojos attempt to one-up each other and expand their rosters; Cobra Kai adds Tory (Peyton List), who quickly becomes Miguel's new girlfriend, forming a love quadrangle with Sam and Robby. Meanwhile, Kreese corrupts Johnny's attempts to evolve Cobra Kai beyond the original "no mercy" credo Kreese himself taught in the 1980s and the Cobra Kai students become divided by the mixed messages. Hawk (Jacob Bertrand), especially, becomes even more of a sociopathic bully, while other Cobra Kai students quit and join Daniel's school. But tensions continue to escalate between all of the karate kids, including a midseason food court brawl and Kreese ordering Hawk to vandalize the Miyagi-Do dojo.
Ironically, just as Daniel and Johnny are able to reach a tentative truce, thanks to Daniel's wife Amanda (Courtney Henggeler) and Miguel's mother Carmen (Vanessa Rubio), all of their students finally explode into violence in the Cobra Kai season 2 finale, "No Mercy", which Kreese takes full advantage of. Here's how the ending of Cobra Kai season 2 changed the lives of Johnny, Daniel, and all of their students:
Cobra Kai Vs. Miyagi-Do Erupts Into All-Out War
Just like her father, Sam LaRusso found herself with an unwanted arch enemy in Tory. Soon after Tory joined Cobra Kai, she started dating Miguel, which irked Sam despite her romantic interest in Robby. Tory, who isn't a rich kid, flips the original script of The Karate Kid as she resents Sam for being affluent, the way Daniel did Johnny when they were teenagers. Sam also mistakenly accused Tory of stealing, earning her enmity. At an end-of-summer house party, Sam embarrassed Tory by beating her at a drinking game before Tory caught the inebriated Sam kissing Miguel. Tory vowed payback and, on the first day of school, she commandeered West Valley High's P.A. system and called Sam out to fight. (References to Grease and Sam reading The Outsiders right before Tory challenged her foreshadowed their conflict.)
When Sam and Tory came to blows, Miguel and Robby immediately rushed to help, which finally caused the burgeoning tensions between the Cobra Kai and Miyagi-Do students to ignite into violence. ("This isn't a tournament", Tory told Sam, echoing what Miyagi told Daniel when Chozen challenged him to a fight to the death in The Karate Kid, Part II.) In a fantastic action sequence, multiple students fought each other, the faculty, and the security guards. The chaos engulfed the entire school but crucially, the key fights were won by Miyagi-Do: Tory tried to maim Sam with a spiked bracelet but Sam won their fight; however, Miguel got the best of Robby and could have broken his arm, but he decided to adhere to Johnny's lessons and show mercy. Robby, however, took advantage and kicked Miguel off a balcony. Miguel fell and landed on the stairwell, nearly killing him. Miguel ended Cobra Kai season 2 hospitalized and in critical condition.
How Kreese Stole Cobra Kai From Johnny
After Johnny visited Miguel at the hospital (and Carmen telling him she never wants to see him again), Cobra Kai's sensei returned to his dojo and found an unpleasant surprise: Kreese, whose services Johnny had dismissed earlier, was back and training his students, including Tory and Hawk. Because Cobra Kai lost the fight at the school, Kreese used their resentment to take over as their new sensei, promising them that he wouldn't fail them like Johnny did. Kreese then informs Johnny that the Cobra Kai dojo now belonged to him.
Kreese pulled off his coup when Johnny left town to spend time with his high school friends, who were the ex-Cobra Kai students who tormented Daniel in The Karate Kid. With Johnny out of town, Kreese took the opportunity to secretly change the ownership of the dojo and place all the legal paperwork under his name. Because Johnny wasn't paying attention to the details, he let Kreese steal Cobra Kai right out from under him. This was actually foreshadowed earlier in Cobra Kai season 2 when Daniel made a commercial promoting Miyagi-Do and called Cobra Kai "a snake in the grass". Predictably, John Kreese was the snake in the grass all along.
Kreese was always working for his own interests and lied to Johnny repeatedly. Because more and more students wanted to join Cobra Kai after Miguel won the All-Valley Tournament, Johnny needed the extra help and brought Kreese aboard despite his (correct) reservations. Johnny also took pity on Kreese after learning that his old sensei was a homeless drifter (it was Miguel who realized that Kreese's war stories were lies and clued Johnny into investigating his sensei). However, Kreese never had any intention of letting Johnny evolve Cobra Kai and he always wanted to return the dojo to his violent 1980s methodology. Kreese's lessons counteracted Johnny's and left the students confused about whether or not to be "badass" or "show mercy". Some of the Cobra Kai already mistrusted Johnny after they learned Robby was his son. The Cobra Kai students blamed showing mercy for what happened to Miguel and decided Johnny was the reason Cobra Kai lost the fight at the school so they went all-in with Kreese's corruption.
Johnny And Daniel's Students Repeat Their Mistakes - And Miguel Pays For It
A lot of the fun of Cobra Kai is in how Daniel and Johnny are simply unable to put their 35-year-old rivalry behind them. The two are oil and water and just can't bring themselves to trust each other. Ironically, Daniel was a great sensei to his students, but too focused on trying to live up to Mr. Miyagi's memory to notice that Johnny was actually trying to change. Johnny grew dismayed that his "badass" Cobra Kai lessons (which were Kreese's original philosophies) were changing his students and turning them into "a**holes", especially Miguel, who he was closer to than his own son Robby. However, Johnny's mindset is perpetually trapped in the 1980s and he only ended up alienating most of his students, who irrevocably bought into the original "strike first, strike hard, no mercy" Cobra Kai lifestyle that Kreese reinforced.
Meanwhile, Johnny and Daniel's students ended up not just recycling their senseis' bad blood but escalating matters into full-blown gang warfare. Tory and Sam instantly disliked each other upon their meeting and they fought over Miguel the way Daniel and Johnny fought over Ali (Elisabeth Shue) in The Karate Kid. The other karate kids took turns tormenting each other all summer.
Ultimately, Miguel was the most tragic victim of the Cobra Kai vs. Miyagi-Do war; Johnny's desire to evolve Cobra Kai was because he promised to keep Miguel on "the right path" after Johnny saw that following Cobra Kai's original philosophy was turning Miguel into a violent jerk. Miguel hero worships Sensei Lawrence and always takes his lessons to heart, but showing Robby mercy turned out to be his fatal mistake. For his part, Robby is a good but troubled kid who routinely succumbs to worst aspects of his father Johnny, despite Daniel's trying to teach him Miyagi's ways.
What Happens Next In Cobra Kai Season 3?
Daniel always saw Cobra Kai as a cult that turned good people into violent jerks, and his nightmare came true in Cobra Kai season 2. Cobra Kai is now as bad as it has ever been and it has corrupted the hearts and minds of several West Valley students. Meanwhile, after Sam and Miguel were hospitalized, Amanda flat-out told Daniel "no more karate", forcing Daniel to close Miyagi-Do, which leaves the Valley without a counterbalance against Cobra Kai. Robby disappeared and poor Miguel is hospitalized; it's unclear if he'll ever walk again, much less fight. As for Johnny, he is left with nothing, and he didn't even see the Facebook friend request from Ali Mills Schwarber, which could signal Elisabeth Shue making an appearance in Cobra Kai season 3.
However, before that fateful gang war at school began, Robby told Johnny that Miyagi-Do had done a lot for him and that "maybe you guys could learn a thing or two from each other". With Kreese proving to be their true enemy, this is a clue that the way forward is for Johnny and Daniel to work together and combine both of their karate philosophies to combat Cobra Kai - but that's only if they can finally stop being eternal rivals and bury the hatchet in Cobra Kai season 3 - which is easier said than done.
Cobra Kai Seasons 1 & 2 are available to stream on YouTube Premium.