It can be hard to justify the absence of a major character from the franchise when the actor who played him doesn’t return for a sequel. When The Karate Kid Part II had this issue with actress Elisabeth Shue, who played Daniel LaRusso’s (Ralph Macchio) love interest Ali Mills in the first movie, it jumped a couple of decades for the digital replacement for Rogue-style faces. One.
The ever-popular “died off-screen” is an easy but often unsatisfying way to solve this problem, and perhaps a bit of a stretch for a teen karate movie. The Karate Kid series uses “gone for a while” twice in its sequels to send Daniel’s mother to various points around the country and leave him in the care of Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita).
But the story arc of a love interest is a bit more complicated than that of a father. You can break them up, but if you’ve spent an entire movie trying to get the audience to support two people getting together as a couple, then suddenly breaking that can lead to whiplash. If they’re going to leave it off screen, you want to make sure it’s for a good reason.
With Ali Mills Schwarber’s return to the Valley during the third season of Cobra Kai, audiences finally get to hear her version of that night, which she explains to Johnny, Daniel and his wife Amanda (Courtney Henggeler) at a Christmas party. With the wisdom of age, the team behind Cobra Kai is smart enough to realize that maybe you shouldn’t trust everything a teenager has to say about breaking her up.
According to Ali, she had been on Daniel’s case for a while about the brakes on that old car, and it was their fault, not her own driving, that caused the accident. The UCLA football player was really just a friend, but Daniel, he explains, “jumps to conclusions” and assumes the worst.
Ali admits that she egged Daniel on, hoping he would learn the lesson and realize that her lack of confidence was her problem, not hers. Unfortunately, even Mr. Miyagi would probably have to admit that Daniel is a pretty slow learner. The ensuing fight ended the relationship and kept Daniel’s misconceptions about it intact for over 30 years. At least it’s better than being killed off screen.