How ‘Cobra Kai’ Season 3 Sets Up the New Villain of Season 4
The following post contains SPOILERS for Season 3 of Cobra Kai.
Cobra Kai likes to end each season with a big tease of a major returning character from The Karate Kid movies. Season 1 concluded with the shocking arrival of John Kreese, Johnny Lawrence’s sensei from the original film. In Season 2’s final moments, Johnny got a Facebook message on his phone from Ali Mills, the girl he and Daniel LaRusso fought over 35 years earlier. And the last scenes of Cobra Kai Season 3 strongly foreshadow the return of another Karate Kid legacy character, who will almost certainly be the new villain of the show’s fourth season.
That’s Terry Silver, who previously served as the main antagonist of The Karate Kid Part III. In that film, Cobra Kai’s business went belly up after Daniel’s shocking victory over Johnny (William Zabka) in the All-Valley Karate Tournament. John Kreese (Martin Kove) decides to call it quits and goes to visit his friend Terry (Thomas Ian Griffith), who’d never been mentioned in either of the previous films but is revealed in Part III to be the financier of Cobra Kai and an old war buddy of Kreese’s.
When Silver learns what Daniel (Ralph Macchio) and Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) did to his friend, he vows revenge on his pal’s behalf. He sends Kreese on a lavish vacation to Tahiti while he sets out to ruin the lives of this old man and his teenage friend he has never met.
(To be clear, this is an excessively strange setup for a movie.)
Thomas Ian Griffith never appears in Cobra Kai Season 3, and the name “Terry” is never mentioned. But if you’re paying attention, you’ve already seen the foundation of his relationship with John Kreese and the reason he is so fiercely loyal and generous to Kreese in The Karate Kid Part III. All that is explored in the Season 3 flashbacks to Kreese’s time in Vietnam, where the Terry Silver character appears — but is almost exclusively referred to as “Twig.” (The nickname refers to his skinny arms.)
“Twig” gets introduced in the Kreese flashback scenes in Season 3 Episode 6, “King Cobra.” They reveal how Kreese learned karate (from his hard-nosed army captain) and why he believes so fervently in his philosophy of strong versus weak, rather than good versus evil. In Vietnam, Kreese was selected for a special unit that performed secret missions in North Vietnam, along with Twig and another soldier nicknamed Ponytail. That character is a red herring — his haircut closely resembles Thomas Ian Griffith’s in The Karate Kid Part III, and since we know Kreese and Silver were old war buddies, we assume this must be the young Terry Silver.
Instead, Ponytail dies during a mission that goes wrong. Ponytail is placing explosives on an enemy position when Twig’s radio squawks and alerts the Viet Cong to their presence. Kreese’s captain orders him to blow the explosives, which would kill Ponytail in the process. Kreese defies him and waits — which results in the whole platoon getting captured, and Ponytail getting shot in the head by the Vietnamese soldiers. Twig seems particularly traumatized by this moment, and repeatedly he screams “Oh God! He’s dead because of me! It’s my fault. God!” That prompts the captain to yell “Shut your goddamn mouth Silver!”
That all but confirms that Twig is indeed Terry Silver, albeit a much more innocent and naive version of the character than the one who appeared in The Karate Kid Part III. The older Terry Silver was so Machiavellian in his commitment to systematically destroying his enemies he made John Kreese look like Mahatma Gandhi.
In the flashbacks during the Season 3 finale, we see that while in captivity, Kreese and his fellow soldiers were forced to fight to the death for the amusement of the Viet Cong. After they’re finally freed, Silver says to Kreese “I owe you man. You saved my ass. Anything you need… I’m there for you. Your whole life. You hear my Johnny? Your whole life! I owe you,” cementing the bond previously seen in The Karate Kid Part III. And after the Kreese of 2020 agrees to a wager on the outcome of the upcoming All-Valley Karate Tournament — if he loses, he will dissolve Cobra Kai forever — he looks at an old Vietnam War photo of himself, Ponytail, and Twigs. Then he calls someone on the phone. When this person answers, Kreese simply says “Long time...”
Although Cobra Kai could ignore this scene, or postpone the character’s arrival until further down the line, there’s no question who and what this is meant to hint at: Terry Silver returning to help Kreese get his ultimate revenge against Daniel LaRusso and his students. This time, of course, Johnny Lawrence and several former Cobra Kai students are with them as well, which should make Cobra Kai Season 4 a suitably epic showdown. Now they just need to figure out a way to fit Hilary Swank’s character from The Next Karate Kid in there somehow.
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