Warning! The following contains spoilers for Cobra Kai Season 3. Read at your own risk!
Cobra Kai is loaded with surprises but, between all the expected and unexpected arrivals of The Karate Kid's past characters, fans got a little something they may not have expected. Season 3 included a bit on the origins of villain John Kreese and detailed the story behind how he became a seemingly heartless villain willing to pass on his twisted morals to a younger generation.
Kreese's story was important to Cobra Kai's co-creators, as they revealed to me in a recent interview about the season. I talked with Hayden Schlossberg about why the team felt it important to detail Kreese's story and potentially reshape the perspective viewers may have had about the big bad:
For some people, Johnny Lawrence was just an antagonist and a bully, but we saw a lot of potential in that character and the same goes with John Kreese as the big bad of Cobra Kai. At least Johnny Lawrence had a hint of humanity in him. Kreese was the one who taught him this no mercy philosophy. He had very little redeemable qualities about him, but we know that all these characters are human beings, and with the real estate that we have as a series we’re able to do those types of deep dives. We were just really interested in why someone would have the no mercy philosophy that he would have, and why would he want to teach that to kids?
Cobra Kai did a lot to make viewers sympathize with Johnny Lawrence, and whether or not that happened with some with Kreese's story in Season 3, there was definitely a better understanding. Kreese adapts the "no mercy" philosophy after being taken as a POW during Vietnam after deciding not to blow up a hut that his squadmate was still close to. The men are forced by opposing soldiers to fight to the death above a massive snake pit, where showing mercy means they die.
Kreese's true transformation comes in a showdown with Captain Turner, who first taught him karate in Vietnam. After learning his superior intentionally withheld letters from his girlfriend (including on that reveals her tragic passing), Kreese kills Turner by letting him fall into the snake pit. It's a crazy, fresh origin that puts together many pieces for the character, though Hayden Schlossberg explained much of the story's framework was already present in the movies:
The seeds of it were in the original Karate Kid, you see that he went to Vietnam. So that gave us a starting point, so then you start to think what happened in Vietnam that would give him that no mercy philosophy? He showed mercy and it backfired, he ends up a POW. The person who taught him karate betrayed him. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong! Life treated him like such shit that we had to unleash this snake. Of course, you also see the origin of a snake and why he picks a snake as the karate mascot! We just really enjoyed getting into that character and what made him tick, and you see now that this philosophy, this way of the fist, is his way of handling what life gives you and that’s kind of what he’s trying to give these kids.
As for whether or not Cobra Kai will show more of John Kreese's origin in Season 4, it seems like that's a strong possibility given the final scene. Kreese calls up his friend Twig, called "Silver" by Captain Turner when the squad was first captured in Vietnam. It appears Twig is none other than Terry Silver, a close friend and confidant of Kreese and a major villain in The Karate Kid Part III. It seems possible we'll learn more about both characters' post-war lives in future Cobra Kai episodes, as well as how the gym got started. Viewers would certainly learn more from this kind of content, though I question if any amount of background will ever make Kreese as sympathetic as Johnny Lawrence.
Cobra Kai Seasons 1-3 are currently available to stream on Netflix. Continue to stick with CinemaBlend for more on the series and the latest news in television and movies.