Why Cobra Kai’s Martin Kove Was ‘Leery’ About Returning For The Karate Kid Sequel Series

Cobra Kai Martin Kove John Kreese William Zabka Johnny Lawrence Netflix
(Image credit: Guy D'Alema / Netflix)

We'll be getting into some spoilers here

Whatever happens in its future, Cobra Kai has been home to the return of several iconic characters from The Karate Kid movies. Martin Kove is one of those people who have reprised their roles from the hit franchise for the sequel series, now on Netflix. If you thought coming back for Cobra Kai was an automatic “yes,” think again. In fact, Kove revealed that he was initially “leery” about returning.

Martin Kove thrilled fans when he appeared at the very end of Season 1’s finale as he entered the new Cobra Kai dojo. Kove did not miss a beat as he stepped back into the shoes of John Kreese. The role of Johnny Lawrence’s brutal sensei, who Daniel holds responsible for Johnny’s path in life, roared back into the middle of it in Cobra Kai.

John Kreese’s return set up a powerful Season 2 arc as Johnny reunited with his former mentor. At first, Martin Kove was uncertain about reprising his iconic role from The Karate Kid movies. Kove explained what he was looking to hear from the writers when it came to their handling of Kreese’s Cobra Kai incarnation, telling THR he "wanted to come back" but in the right way, which happened to be a TV gig.

I wanted to come back to the role. I was quite leery to do it as written for the movies, but my basic insistence to the [Cobra Kai] writers was, 'Are you going to write this character vulnerably? Are you going to give him some versatile situations?' And they did, they had him coming off Episode 1, Season 2 as if he was a big shot. He portrayed that everything's cool, and he's coming back, and he wants to be in Cobra Kai, because it's now big news. He lives in a shelter because he has no money. Then [Zabka's character] follows him one day, and they have a great scene in the shelter where I'm in tears, and Billy's in tears. He takes me back into Cobra Kai. This is after Episode 1, where we had a big fight, and I threw him through glass.

Ah yes, the big fight between Kreese and Johnny provided an explosive start to Cobra Kai Season 2. There was an initial softening between the two after their battle in the dojo. Kreese shared some seemingly sincere words to Johnny in the premiere, apologizing for how harsh he had been with his prized pupil back in the day.

After all, Kreese was no Mr. Miyagi. He was the exact opposite. As Johnny explained, Kreese had been like a father to him, having had a terrible stepfather in Sid. Johnny’s desire to please Kreese led him astray, as Cobra Kai has hinted to more than once during its duration. Still, Kreese, like many other Karate Kid characters, has found new layering on the now-Netflix show.

It is one of the many fascinating intrigues that has seen Cobra Kai translate so well. Some things never change, though. As Karate Kid fans saw at the beginning of Cobra Kai’s second season, Johnny still had a desire to impress/please his old sensei. Once a sensei, always a sensei? Maybe. It is just one of the many relationships the show has and should continue to explore.

This Cobra Kai viewer is incredibly pleased with how the writers handled the return of Martin Kove’s Kreese, and it sounds like Kove is too. There is no rehashing the exact characterization of Kreese circa The Karate Kid. Instead, there is a nuance to Kreese and his relationship with his former protégé. As a viewer, it is fascinating to watch and an exciting thing to revisit. Cobra Kai is one of Netflix’s 2020 premieres. The first two seasons (and The Karate Kid trilogy) are now streaming on Netflix. Season 3 will arrive following this fall’s upcoming arrivals in 2021.

Britt Lawrence

Like a contented Hallmark movie character, Britt happily lives in the same city she grew up in. Along with movies and television, she is passionate about competitive figure skating. She has been writing about entertainment for 5 years, and as you may suspect, still finds it as entertaining to do as when she began.