Cobra Kai has positioned itself as a more nuanced take on the iconic film The Karate Kid. Featuring a middle-aged Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence, the show has done an excellent job of showing that Daniel is not the all-white heroic figure, and Johnny is not the all-black bullying villain that we remember from our childhoods.
Rather both characters have plenty of shades of grey within them. But despite muddying the waters in terms of who we consider the good guys and bad guys of the story, the co-creator of Cobra Kai, Josh Heald, told ComicBook.com that the series does indeed have one clear villain, John Kreese.
“We knew from the beginning that Kreese had been the big bad wolf of the franchise. In the ’80s, there was Darth Vader and there was John Kreese in terms of movie villains that frightened us as kids and rooms in which we didn’t want to enter. So we knew there was real power in Kreese and it contributed to why we waited until the very end of the first season to bring him back. Because he’s such a figure that takes all the life out of the room and draws focus that you want to give his moment gravitas and lean into that character for that fear and experience it through Johnny’s eyes and be with Johnny on that journey. So at first, we had to get our audience with Johnny.”
While Johnny was the main antagonist of The Karate Kid, a cruel, bullying rich kid with a chip on his shoulder, it was heavily implied that a big reason for Johnny’s delinquency was the lessons taught to him by his Cobra Kai sensei Kreese. After Kreese made his entry in Cobra Kai, he was soon up to his old tricks, teaching a new generation of students that the only important thing is winning at all cost. According to Heald, what delineates the Kreese seen in Cobra Kai from The Karate Kid movies is that audiences are now better able to understand his motivations.
“We had to experience a little bit of growth and then we had to bring back, that fearful figure [of Kreese]. Once we brought him back in Season 2, we began the work of getting into John Kreese’s past. Not going so far back, but going back to the in-between years, the years after Karate Kid Part III and redeeming him a little bit in the way that he was a broken man who has regret in his life and was only trying to help. But once we’ve taken the leap of doing what we did at the end of season two and seeing Kreese, actually take a stranglehold to Cobra Kai, and take it back from Johnny. It required a little bit more digging to continue to have the audience to be willing, to not necessarily be on Kreese’s side, but to understand what his side even is, rather than just have him be a mustache twirling figure, who’s going to come in and grab things.”
Cobra Kai stars William Zabka, Ralph Macchio, Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Mary Mouser, Tanner Buchanan, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni Decenzo, Peyton List, and Martin Kove. All three seasons are available to stream now on Netflix. This news comes from ComicBook.com.