The following story contains spoilers for Netflix Season 5 Cobra Kai.
Cobra Kai usually tends to end its seasons with some kind of big show: a tournament, a giant fight in a school, or something of equal size. And then when those things are over, things tend to be… not so well placed; previous seasons have ended with main characters suffering serious injuries and our heroes explicitly losing to our villains. In Cobra Kai Season 5, this is not the case: Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence, partners apparently for good, come out victorious. Terry Silver, in full coked villain form, has a litany of charges to answer and seems headed for jail. Even Mike Barnes, who had his furniture story burned, seems to be fine after taking a priceless painting from Silver’s collection. So what is the problem?
Season 5 leaves many threads open to follow in the future, and all of them are good. Johnny and Carmen (Miguel’s mother) are expecting a child. Daniel seems like he can finally give his family some time (and start helping the kids learn karate to protect themselves again).
The respective couples of Robby and Tory and Sam and Miguel all seem to be doing pretty well. Hawk is on the good side and seems to be turning into a good boy again. Kenny took a wrong turn in Season 5, but it looks like having Terry Silver exposed might cause him to recalibrate. And Stingray, well, we’re okay with the direction the writers want to send this guy, as long as we keep watching Paul Walter Hauser play him.
But the final Cobra Kai Season 5 ended with a pair of scenes to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” a fitting end-of-life anthem. In these we see John Kreese recount his limited time and in the opening scene we see him stabbed repeatedly in the chest. As he bleeds, we wonder throughout the episode if we’ve seen the last of The Karate Kid the franchise’s ultimate antagonist.
Did Kreese escape from prison at the end of Cobra Kai Season 5, or is he really dead?
As the season draws to a close and Daniel and Johnny see Silver handcuffed, potentially risking jail time, they notice that Kreese and Silver will soon be behind bars. “Hopefully Silver and Kreese end up being cellmates,” Johnny said after a good handshake with Daniel. Maybe a banquet beer is in order for a party? But the detective surprises: “You mean John Kreese? he asks, clearly holding something back. “Didn’t you hear what happened?
We’re led to believe right now, of course, that what we saw in the opening scene happened: Kreese is dead. We’re then taken, immediately, into a flashback sequence where Kreese is rolled on a stretcher to a medical examiner’s office, except his stab wounds aren’t stab wounds. He is alive and well, breaks all the examiners out, and escapes the facility in a doctor’s clothes using a security badge stolen from his social worker.
We’re being led to believe Kreese, right now, made his own Thesilenceofthelambs-style Hannibal Lecter prison escape. But here’s a question for you: what if he doesn’t?
I’ll basically call it the Taxi driver theory, because that’s basically what it’s all about. While we seen Kreese escapes in the final moments, we never heard the second part of what the detectives were saying to Johnny and Daniel. What if “what happened” wasn’t that Kreese escaped prison using a master plan from a beloved thriller, but was stabbed to death while protecting someone in the cafeteria ?
What we saw in the end, then, would only be Kreese’s own near-death visions of the master plan he always thought he would achieve.
Of course, the probability in a show like Cobra Kai is Kreese did, in fact, escape, and that somehow he’ll be back in Season 6 to cause a lot more trouble for Daniel, Johnny, and the rest of the crew. But for a moment, let’s ask ourselves: what if?
Evan is the cultural editor of Men’s Health, with bookmarks in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine and VICE. He likes weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he does.