‘Cobra Kai’ Handles Its Villain Arcs Well
by Frank Martin
Many writers will state that it’s far easier crafting compelling villains than heroes. After all, it takes a lot more work resisting villainous urges than it does giving in to them. Villains often have a connection to the hero. Because of this, a lot of villains continue on past their initial appearance and become an integral of part of subsequent stories. But while crafting the villain’s initial story might be easy, it can be difficult to have that villain grow into a full-fledged arc. A lot of times, redemption stories are told, but these become tired and tropey after a while. The latest season of Cobra Kai showcased how a villain can still be interesting several seasons later.
From her first appearance, the role Tory (Peyton List) was meant to play in the series was clear. She was supposed to be a competing love interest and rival to Sam (Mary Mouser). But as Cobra Kai grew as a dojo, she found herself in a precarious position of challenging the morals and reasons she joined up in the first place. This season, Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) and the sensei he brought on board tortured Tory in order to make her fit the mold they wanted to. This included having her punch stone over and over until her hand practically broke.
Although the plot and character relationships were complicated, the story actually employed a very simple method to accomplish this. In order to show sympathy for a dastardly villain, the story introduced a villain who was even worse. There will be no redemption arc or villain’s journey for Silver and his cohorts; their time has passed. But the ramifications of what they have done to Tory will echo in seasons to come. This tactic of introducing a more terrible villain to further grow a previous villain is nothing new, but Cobra Kai used it to great effect.
Cobra Kai is now streaming on Netflix.