WARNING: Spoilers for Cobra Kai Season 3.
Cobra Kai Season 3 reveals why Mr. Miyagi is responsible for Daniel LaRusso’s successful business career. In The Karate Kid movie series, the duo have a mentor-protégé relationship that emerges from Mr. Miyagi reaching Daniel his Okinawan style of martial arts. As an adult, Daniel (Ralph Macchio) applies the core values that he learned from Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) to his entrepreneurial practices, as evidenced by a revelatory moment in the Cobra Kai season 3 episode “Now You’re Gonna Pay.”Daniel’s interest in cars dates back to the original franchise movie, The Karate Kid. The New Jersey native moves cross-country to California with his mother in a modest station wagon and later drives around his mentor, Mr. Miyagi, who doesn’t have a legal driver’s license but still has an interest in cars. After a confrontation with Cobra Kai founder John Kreese (Martin Kove), Daniel begins training at Mr. Miyagi’s home and takes a liking to a yellow 1947 Ford. After fulfilling a “promise to learn,” which involves washing and waxing numerous vehicles, Mr. Miyagi’s pupil is ultimately rewarded with the opportunity to choose his favorite car on the property, and also reminded that his karate lessons apply to life in general.
In Cobra Kai season 3, Daniel remembers Mr. Miyagi’s wisdom and generosity when bad press threatens the future of LaRusso Auto Group. Specifically, he’s reminded about “the best day of his life” when he received the ’47 Ford – a moment that inspired him to start a car dealership and communicate the same sense of excitement to customers. It’s a crucial scene for Daniel, as he makes a conscious decision to follow a core principle of Miyagi-Do: “When the fight comes to you, you have to be ready to fight back.” By channeling Mr. Miyagi’s passion, Daniels finds clarity and a newfound sense of life balance.
Daniel’s epiphany in Cobra Kai season 3 reminds viewers that he’s still the main protagonist, even if much of the narrative focus often shifts to Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). The Netflix series initially frames Macchio’s character as somewhat of a cheesy car salesman who relies on his karate accomplishments for marketing taglines. Daniel often displays dismissive and borderline arrogant behavior when conversing with Johnny, which implies that he views his long-time rival as a failure, or at least someone of a lower social status. At a city council meeting in Cobra Kai season 3, Daniel even learns that some people actually view him as a villain, based on his behavior decades prior during the All Valley Karate Tournament. It’s these small character touches that make the Netflix series so fascinating, as Daniel and Johnny aren’t framed as traditional protagonists, but rather as flawed individuals who try to improve themselves through lessons learned from karate.In Cobra Kai season 3, the Mr. Miyagi car memory may seem like a passing moment, yet it essentially sets up the rest of the season. For one, Daniel travels all the way to Japan to meet with Doyona International, whose business he needs to save LaRusso Auto Group. This subplot allows the Netflix series to re-introduce characters from The Karate Kid Part II – Kumiko and Chozen Toguchi – and also put Daniel in the right frame of mind to work alongside Johnny, rather than against him. Subconsciously, Daniel’s ’47 Ford memories function as his moral compass. Mr. Miyagi’s spirit lives on through his protégé’s karate teachings, and also through his excitement for cars – a metaphor for Daniel’s passion for life.