Cobra Kai reintroduces many characters from The Karate Kid trilogy. Mike Barnes should follow suit — but should be left as an outright villain.
Cobra Kai should continue its trend of bringing back characters by reintroducing The Karate Kid 3‘s Mike Barnes – but break the established pattern by not redeeming him. Played by Sean Kanan, Mike Barnes debuted in the climactic chapter of Daniel LaRusso’s cinematic journey. Recruited by John Kreese (Martin Kove) and his megalomaniacal war buddy, Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), Barnes served as a principal antagonist. Violently harassing Daniel into re-entering the All-Valley Karate Tournament, Barnes sought the title with merciless intensity. Ultimately, however, he was defeated by another of Daniel’s classic last-minute gambits.Continue scrolling to keep reading
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Throughout Cobra Kai, several blasts from the past have resurfaced. Those were recently expanded to include The Karate Kid 2‘s Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita) and Chozen (Yuji Okumoto), as well as Elizabeth Shue’s Ali “with an i” Mills. Equally, via the terrifying backstory of Kreese in Vietnam, other familiar characters like Terry Silver were explored in their younger forms. As things stand, Mike Barnes has remained a question mark in fans’ minds. The character was directly referenced in Cobra Kai season 3 – when Daniel relayed his experience with Barnes in order to help Samantha (Mary Mouser) through her PTSD. However, he has yet to make a physical appearance. With Cobra Kai season 4 already confirmed and many more episodes mapped out, it’s almost inevitable that that will be rectified. That being said, if or when Mike Barnes does reemerge, the show should break its usual format and not redeem him.
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In the immediate aftermath of his loss, Mike Barnes displayed a violent tantrum before disappearing from view. It’s completely unknown what happened to him after that. However, Cobra Kai had long been closed before the doomed decision of Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) to reopen the dojo. Therefore, it’s evident that he never received any of the promised recompenses for his efforts. In fact, given his defeat, he was likely tossed out into the cold by John Kreese and Terry Silver. Whatever the case may be, Barnes demonstrated none of the humility Johnny expressed in the wake of failure. As such, his already bitter and psychopathic nature would’ve likely grown only worse rather than given way to remorseful reflection. It’s next to impossible to know for sure where that would’ve led him, but the path would no doubt have been a dark one — potentially including further criminality and even jail time.
Cobra Kai has already redeemed two former antagonists. No matter which side of the fence one fell regarding the whole “Daniel was The Karate Kid movie’s real villain” issue, even Johnny himself felt he had things to atone for. Throughout Cobra Kai, he has consistently done that – committing himself to self-improvement, helping such as Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña), and making better choices. Similarly, the show subverted expectations by revealing that Chozen’s apparent lingering grudge was a prank on Daniel. Instead, Chozen simply wanted to return the iconic nose honk and was revealed to have wholly changed his ways. To once more do exactly the same – but with Mike Barnes – would seem a tad contrived. After all, once again, Barnes never displayed even a trace of conflicted humanity that Johnny (or even Chozen) did, even amid their villainy.
Not redeeming Mike Barnes could also benefit other characters and relationships. It would allow others like Daniel to more fully see Johnny in a positive light since he’d get a taste of how bad Johnny could’ve been after their initial tournament battle. Mike Barnes could be the anti-Johnny, so to speak. Mike could also give characters like Robby (Tanner Buchanan) and Tory (Peyton List) a scared-straight glimpse at their potential futures – at what giving in wholeheartedly to hate, vengeance, and bitter resentments could look like in the long run. Equally, he could provoke even grittier, more explosive clashes. That isn’t to say that the show shouldn’t afford him shades of grey or more fleshed-out characterization where possible. However, Mike Barnes could make an interesting change of pace – yet still serve a vital storytelling function – by being more of an outright villain in Cobra Kai season 4 or beyond.
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About The Author
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John Atkinson has been a news and feature writer for Screen Rant since late 2018. Before that, he had articles published across a number of different outlets. A graduate of the University of London, John was raised on a small island by television and movies. As such, he pursued a career in screenwriting and film journalism when it became apparent that actually becoming Spider-Man was impossible. John’s fondest wish is to one day produce a film of his own. Until then, he’s more than happy to spend countless hours just talking about them.
John’s love of film and television defies genre and sometimes even logic. Nothing is off-limits to his passion – be it Marvel, DC, Rian Johnson’s Star Wars, or Tommy Wiseau’s latest cinematic offering.
Away from screens, John can often be found in a park reading mystery and/or fantasy novels, jumping up and down at various music events, or thinking too deeply about Keanu Reeves’ career and why Edgar Wright doesn’t have an Oscar.
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