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Why These Cobra Kai Episode Titles Mean More Than You Realized

Both seasons of Cobra Kai are currently streaming on Netflix, with another on the way. After the move from YouTube, the follow-up to The Karate Kid franchise has seen a huge influx of new fans, not to mention all the old fans who used the new platform as an excuse for a re-binge.

New fans plus old fans rewatching can only mean one thing: a whole new batch of Easter egg discoveries. There's recently been an uptick in fans researching and discussing these hidden connections and references online. One such devoted fan found an interesting connection in an unlikely place: the season 1 and 2 episode titles.

Typically, TV episode titles are used descriptively, as a means to hint at an episode's content. Sometimes a title is direct and simple. For example, every episode of Smallville has a one-word title. Other times, shows will try to be more artful and less direct to give people a vibe for where an episode might go. Star Trek: The Original Series had wild episode titles in its third season like "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" and "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield."

So what do Cobra Kai episode titles say about the show, it's characters and where they're going? Here's one fan's theory, at least.

Mercy vs. No Mercy on Cobra Kai

Reddit user ferengiprophet pointed out that Cobra Kai's proverbial prophet is Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) himself. "Johnny prophesied his own downfall in a speech he gave to his students during the last episode of season 1."

There's a point during the episode entitled "Mercy" when Johnny is trying to rally his Cobra Kai students because they're feeling unsure of themselves and the dojo. He rhapsodizes on the human condition, telling all his young pupils, "You wake up one morning feeling great and then life throws a spinning heel kick to your balls." It's a weird twist on a classic axiom but it's still true — just like Johnny says: "Just when you think things are going good, everything falls apart. That's how it goes."

Ferengiprophet points out that season 1 finale, "Mercy," and season 2 finale, "No Mercy," are "mirror episodes," just as their titles imply. At the end of season 1, "Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) was the aggressor. He showed Robby (Tanner Buchanan) no mercy and defeated him by repeatedly targeting his injured shoulder."

That's true! The whole theme of "Mercy" is Johnny's personal discovery that Cobra Kai's "no mercy" mantra has caused him more harm than help. He has to see the same cycle of violence play out with Miguel to realize the toxicity of the Cobra Kai philosophy.

On the flip side, in the season 2 finale, "Robby became the aggressor. He severely injured Miguel in a school fight by kicking him over the rails and thus showed him no mercy in the heat of the moment," ferengiprophet notes.

If "No Mercy" is the mirror image to "Mercy," then it makes sense that roles would reverse, and that's precisely what happens. During the brawl at the school, Robby, who was taught by Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), should have chosen mercy because it's at the very heart of Miyagi-Do Karate. Instead, Robby not only shows no mercy, but he very nearly kills Miguel and may have left him permanently disabled.

Everything falls apart for Johnny Lawrence

In a way, you could argue Johnny's speech at the end of Cobra Kai season one is specifically designed to foreshadow where the end of season 2 takes us.

"Kreese (Martin Kove) kicked Johnny out of his own dojo and took his students from him on the worst day of his life," ferengiprophet writes. "Miguel was in the hospital with his future being uncertain and his mother, Carmen, broke up with Johnny."

Johnny's life might have been complicated in Cobra Kai season two, but he did try to make peace with Kreese, he was truly connecting with Robby as a father, and he was maybe starting to build a romantic relationship with Carmen (Vanessa Rubio). By the end of "No Mercy," everything has fallen apart for Johnny. His biological son has harmed his surrogate son in a way that neither of those young men will ever be able to completely move on from. Carmen tells Johnny she never wants to see him again. John Kreese, who Johnny thought was on the right path, secretly steals Johnny's students away from him to continue the exact "no mercy" mantra that caused all this destruction in the first place. Everything's a real mess heading into season 3, and that's a real credit to the writers.

Cobra Kai's first two seasons are streaming now on Netflix and its third season is due out in 2021.