Cobra Kai season 3 uses Kreese to warn against over-glorifying the military

Cobra Kai season 3, the very first batch of episodes to premiere on Netflix, does something interesting with its Huge Bad, John Kreese: In a story arc about how old competitions and previous injury can continue to deal damage throughout years, the program’s authors utilize the character to question the quantity of automated regard and trust that America locations in its veterans.

Such a crammed, nuanced criticism protrudes on Cobra Kai. The story of 2 karate trainees who battled each other in a competition when they were kids, and discover their competition restored in their adult lives as they both handle brand-new karate trainees, is outrageous. The program’s characters appear to understand none of this makes good sense, or is possible in a typical truth, however understanding a scenario is ridiculous doesn’t suggest you’re out of that circumstance.

Every character in the program is stuck, in their own method, in the high-stakes drama of Karate Kid motion pictures, and because world whatever in life can be resolved or intensified through karate. Even Daniel’s better half discovers the entire thing tough to discuss, or a minimum of think.

Then there’s the problem of Kreese, who has actually been established as the supreme bad person throughout the series. Season 3 expands a currently bonkers backstory about Kreese’s time in Vietnam in which he was recorded and required to combat other detainees to the death above an actual snake pit, due to the fact that Hollywood doesn’t think you can offer something a name without likewise producing a backstory to validate that name.

Kreese battles in the location of another detainee, wins, they get launched, and the 2 guys open a karate dojo called Cobra Kai to give the value of eliminating your challengers prior to they eliminate you. A shopping center karate dojo is a bit various than a death pit in Vietnam, or a minimum of need to be to the majority of people, however nobody can inform that to Kreese.

So when Kreese go back to the world of Karate Kid at the end of season among Cobra Kai, we understand things will buckle down. Lawrence is an aging, out-of-touch goofball seeking to much better himself a bit by resuming Cobra Kai, however Kreese desires control of the dojo due to the fact that he’s a bad person out of an animation, somebody who appears to simply enjoy triggering suffering in others.

Throughout yet another karate brawl in between trainees, the Cobra Kai students break the arm of a challenger, and Kreese, naturally, is great with it. Injuring your opponents is the entire point! However in reality you can’t simply teach kids to hurt other kids. Someone is going to come and complain. Understandably! When Amanda LaRusso responds, we see just how creepy and effective Kreese can be as a villain.

Everything about the scene gives me the willies. She’s alone in his business, he obviously has no regard for any kind of social contract, and Kreese knows exactly how badly Amanda messed up by striking him in response to his veiled threats and aggressive behavior. Suddenly he has all the power in this situation, and is ready to play one last get out of jail free card: he’s a veteran.

In a meeting with local government to discuss the cancellation of the upcoming karate tournament, which in this universe is the only way to solve anything, Kreese begins by introducing himself with his rank, is thanked for his service, he makes a fake show of being a good, but tough, teacher who just wants the best for his students, and reminds the room he was just so happy to serve his country. He’s not the violent one, the people trying to interrupt him are the baddies, and he’s already had to file a restraining order against Amanda LaRusso for striking him.

His status as a combat veteran is the first weapon he reached for, knowing it would likely be the most effective. American society gives a lot of social power to folks who served, and Kreese knows exactly how to weaponize that inherent trust to manipulate those around him.

Whether Kreese would have been as convincing without playing this particular card is debatable, but it’s a card the character is clearly used to playing, and knows how to use to get what he wants. Martin Kove, the actor playing Kreese, is also in his 70s, so his options for actual physical combat on the show are limited, and he makes a more imposing enemy when the threat is more cerebral anyway. It also shows his cunning; whatever he can use for an advantage, he will use.

This turnaround in the power dynamic between a newcomer to the community and a well-known local businesswoman who owns a car dealership is just a small moment in a surprisingly dense show. But as written, the scene between Kreese and the other adult characters of Cobra Kai offers a rare warning about elevating veterans or service members based exclusively on the fact that they’re veterans or service members.

That’s a provocative perspective for a piece of American TV. Our pop culture often turns soldiers into action heroes, and the police into anti-heroes who bend the rules to do what needs to be done. These romanticized versions of the people who hold these jobs run into some friction when compared to reality, where a mob of citizens, including veterans and law enforcement, abused their social position and the trust placed in them to stage a riot in the United States Capitol. Cobra Kai isn’t saying soldiers are particularly manipulative or evil, just that being a veteran isn’t by itself a good reason to believe someone is telling the truth. It’s a data point, not the whole story.

Kreese’s season 3 arc shows the downsides of this particular bias, and how easily it can help cause, and also cover up, ongoing violence and abuse. Daniel LaRusso has already kicked the guy’s butt once in the show’s third season, but the debate scene is where his genuine threat becomes apparent: Kreese doesn’t need his own fists to do damage, simply the trust and backing of the neighborhood while he incomes war on his competing dojos. And he’s able to arrive, in big part, due to raising this one element of his incredibly checkered past.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.