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Why Tory's actions in Cobra Kai season 3 make no sense to fans

Contains spoilers for Cobra Kai season 3

Cobra Kai season 3 gives us an insight into how John Kreese (Martin Kove) sees his dojo's place in the world: at the top. We find out in season 3 that Kreese was originally the bullied before he continued the cycle abuse and became a bully himself. And in the new Cobra Kai dojo, he seeks people with the killer instinct to not just overcome being bullied, but also to be feared and respected by everyone else.

Kreese sees one student as his best: Tory (Peyton List). Though Hawk (Jacob Bertrand) wants to be the top student and Kreese even brings in bigger bullies to kick out the weaker members of Cobra Kai, no matter who comes or goes, Tory holds a special place in Kreese's heart — because he sees himself in her. Thanks to Cobra Kai's third season, we know that Tory, just like Kreese, must take care of a sick family member all on her own. Kreese worked at a diner and Tory also takes up service work to care for her family. And Tory, just like Kreese, has also taken the pain of her life and fueled it into a smoldering rage. 

By the end of the season, Tory is so wrapped up in her own anger that she becomes he embodiment of Sam's (Mary Mouser) nightmares when she invades the LaRusso home.  But has Tory become so evil that her actions no longer make sense? That's what some Cobra Kai fans are debating.

Why Tory is too evil to be believable

How far does a character have to go before they've stretched credulity and become a mustache-twirling cartoon villain incapable of being empathized with? Has Tory gone that far? Some Cobra Kai fans seem to think so. "As much as this pains me to admit, Sam was right when she said having a crappy home situation doesn't make it okay to be a bully," writes Reddit user u/enchantedlife13. "That's what Tory does — she plays the victim."

It's hard to deny the facts: Tory was the aggressor, attacking Sam LaRusso in the rink and at the school back in season 2. And Tory leads Cobra Kai dojo like it's a gang, helping to inspire Hawk to go so far as to break his former friend Demetri's (Gianni Decenzo) arm. As Redditor u/amiryacine argues, "She didn't go to visit her boyfriend on the hospital even one time and when she got to seem him while he was in a wheelchair she played victim and let her anger out on him." That's true, too — Tory barely engages with Miguel while he's in the hospital and paralyzed from the waist down.

Shrewd fans have pointed out that Tory rolling deep at the LaRusso home doesn't just put her potential victims in danger — it hurts the people she's supposed to care about, too. "She might as well not even look after her brother or work to keep a roof over their heads or try to help her mom stay on dialysis, because everything she's doing is jeopardizing them," Reddit user u/Indigoshroom points out. 

Certainly, there's no telling what will happen if Tory winds up in jail; her mother could die, and her brother could wind up in foster care. But does all that pressure maybe explain why Tory can be so over-the-top in her vindictiveness?

Why Tory's violent outbursts are understandable

Tory is a teenager. Put more plainly: Tory is a child. And yet she is expelled, caring for an ailing mother and a younger brother, and she's working two jobs to do it. Tory is a child who's the head of her household, working against odds she already knows are completely stacked against her — and all that is before her landlord sexually harasses her.

There's only one person who shows up for Tory when she's at her lowest and her most irredeemable, and it's not Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) or Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) — it's John Kreese. Redditor u/AdminitrativeBig362 notes that Tory's violent behavior is "because of Kreese." They continue, "Kreese took advantage of Tory's and Robby's terrible life experiences to manipulate them and brainwash them. I don't really think either of them are bad, Kreese just takes advantage of the situation to place Miyagi-do as the enemy."

Something Cobra Kai does over and over again is show how trauma is generational. For two seasons, we watched the rivalry between Daniel and Johnny poison their students into hating each other. In season 3, we see how atomic that trauma can be. While in the war, Kreese literally learns that mercy gets people killed when he and his team get captured by enemy combatants. It's only when Kreese learns to kill or be killed that he finds control and wins the day.

Just like with Daniel and Johnny before, Kreese transfers his trauma down to Tory. He shows her a path to survival at a time when Tory is barely hanging on. If someone thinks their life is in that kind of danger, it's hardly surprising when, like a cat in a corner, they lash out.