One of the biggest gambles that the creators of Cobra Kai had at the conclusion of season two paid off handsomely in their latest season. As much as The Karate Kid franchise is often associated with its stars in Pat Morita, Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, and Martin Kove, its sequel series has done a wonderful job reuniting the bulk of the cast back into the fold from the featured films. Naturally, Morita's 2005 passing was written into the narrative as Daniel (Macchio) copes with becoming the teacher in an everchanging world with a shift of focus of the series to expand to his rival Johnny (Zabka). Okay, from this point forward? We're throwing on the "MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!" sign for those who haven't finished the season yet.
The arc season two closed out with that the creators teased is how Johnny was hoping to reconnect with Ali, played by Elizabeth Shue in the 1984 original The Karate Kid, via Facebook. The final shot showed her response, but there wasn't so much a current physical photo since it wasn't known if the actress would reprise her role at the time. Cobra Kai co-creator Josh Heald spoke with Cinemablend about the events leading up to Shue's return. You can read her side here. "When we shot that moment of Johnny throwing his phone on the beach and the camera finds that Ali Mills Schwarber accepted his friend request, we did not know that Elisabeth Shue was going to return," Heald said. "We certainly hoped she would! That was a little bit of a flare being shot into the sky to say we're over here." When the actress did answer the call, it was toward the end of the season that found Ali going through her own marital issues and in "town". What we get in a few gems with her reconnecting with Johnny and tying up their major loose end a sequel series affords you that shows a genuine growth within the character.
When Ali participates in a party thrown by her mother, she invites Johnny and the LaRusso's to the gala. Not only did they catch up with the rivals owning their juvenile ways, but also achieved an understanding with one another only a neutral party like Ali can achieve. Plus, with the way things left after the party and her ties to Valley, it leaves room for her return. If Shue didn't pan out, Heald didn't have much of a plan B, but glad things worked out. "We talked kind of jokingly about a couple of contingency plans, but none of them were actually real enough that would pack that kind of emotional punch that we knew was necessary to bring Ali back at this time," Heald said. "To have something else that becomes a catalyst for that moment would've felt inauthentic, and we would've had to start chipping away at what we had to do at the end of the season. It would've been us going back to the drawing board to figure out other ways in how the season culminated. Thankfully we were able to share our passion and have her back in this universe and it was truly amazing." Obviously, Shue's return isn't the only one. The Karate Kid Part II (1986) favorites in Tamlyn Tomita and Yuji Okumoto also made theirs as well. Season three of Cobra Kai is available to stream on Netflix.