When you have a TV series that is as fun and nostalgic as Netflix’s Cobra Kai, sometimes relationships and situations that are more grounded can get lost in the fray. While all the ‘80s references and kick-butt, if slightly cheesy, karate battles between teenagers may lure viewers in, it’s important to recognize the strong Latina characters like Carmen Diaz (Vanessa Rubio) and Rosa Diaz (Rose Bianco), the mother and grandmother of main karate kid Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña), who keep the show feeling authentic.
While their roles may be small in Season 3, Rubio’s Carmen and Bianco’s Rosa are a duo to contend with, as Miguel continues to come into his own and face his toughest challenge yet. Sure, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) has been the biggest on-screen influence in Miguel’s life since the first season, especially since Miguel’s father is non-existent, but it’s Carmen and Rosa’s love and strength for Miguel that have kept him from losing direction. They are Miguel’s true senseis.
Carmen and Rosa are standing by Miguel’s bedside at the start of Season 3 after (spoiler alert) he is knocked into a coma. “Miggy, it’s mama,” Carmen whispers. “I love you so much, my baby. Please come back to us. We’re right here. I hope you can hear me, mjio.”
When the nurse lets Carmen and Rosa know that Miguel can hear them and that they should talk to him about things he loves, grandma steps in to talk sports. “I think the Dodgers are gonna make the playoffs,” she says in Spanish. “Even though I guess they’ll screw it up as usual.”
Carmen is also conscious of the fact that hospital food is probably not great, so she brings a home-cooked meal in Tupperware and feeds her son as he regains his strength. She lets him know that his grandma is at home “cooking up a storm.”
Carmen also shows she’s a protective Latina mother with her uncertainty about how Johnny fits into Miguel’s life after the accident. Miguel wants him to be part of his rehabilitation process, but it’s a tough call for Carmen because she blames Johnny for Miguel’s injury. Also, it was Johnny’s estranged son Robby (Tanner Buchanan) who put Miguel in the hospital in the first place. Rosa, however, knows Miguel needs his teacher if he wants to make a full recovery. She tells him this as she holds his hand and looks him in the eye.
Later, Carmen has a heart-to-heart with Johnny about the challenges of being a good parent. “You know as well as I do that being a parent means making the hard choices for their own good,” she says. Then, she encourages Johnny to fight to save the All-Valley tournament, which has been canceled for the first time since its inception.
OK, so maybe it’s a bit questionable that Carmen and Johnny start a relationship, but they’re both adults and can make their own decisions. Plus, bringing Johnny into the family will be an interesting narrative to follow if, say, Season 4 introduces us to Miguel’s supposedly dangerous dad who may or may not be part of an Ecuadorian drug cartel. It might be time for Johnny and Carmen to sweep the leg.