Cobra Kai’s original sensei, John Kreese, is one of the 1980s’ most iconic villains, terrifying simply because he feels so familiar. He encourages bullying and manipulates a teenage Johnny to illegally injure Daniel during the final match of the All Valley Tournament. The opening scene of “The Karate Kid Part II” is a shocking act of abuse and violence, as a furious Kreese breaks Johnny’s second place trophy and chokes his young student in the tournament’s parking lot. “Cobra Kai” has endeavored to give Kreese a more sympathetic backstory, and in previous seasons, we’ve learned about his mother’s battle with mental illness, his lost love, and the extreme trauma he suffered while serving in Vietnam. It’s tempting to want to forgive the now elderly villain, but his continued manipulation of Cobra Kai students makes it difficult to determine his motives.
Trying to qualify for early release, Kreese undergoes therapy in prison, and it’s there that he makes significant steps towards forgiveness. In a difficult session, he confronts memories of everyone he’s hurt over the years, including his Army commander, a former flame, recent students, and even a younger version of himself. However, it’s his confrontation with a young Johnny that hits especially hard. Johnny reminds him that though he may believe his intentions were noble, he has caused a significant amount of pain, and there’s still a long way to go on the road to redemption.
If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.