The story of Firefly Lane is a tale as old as time: two best friends, sticking out all of the trials and tribulations of life together as the years go by. Based on the book of the same name by Kristin Hannah, the Netflix Original series follows Kate Mularkey (Sarah Chalke) and Tully Hart (Katherine Heigl) as they grow up and change together over the course of three decades. The series contains heartfelt themes of friendship, loyalty, and devotion, similar to other popular “female friendship” media such as The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Clueless, Netflix’s Someone Great, and more.
Kate is your typical nerdy, unpopular teenage girl when we first meet her. With long blond hair and glasses with frames bigger than her whole face, her prospects of being popular and having lots of friends don’t seem high. She also has your typical suburban family, with a gruff dad, housewife mom, and a mean older brother named Sean.
Tully, on the other hand, could not be more different. She is beautiful, confident, and outgoing, and when she moves into the house next door on the titular Firefly Lane, Kate doesn’t see any possibility of becoming friends with her. However, while Kate may have an embarrassingly sitcom-like family, things aren’t so great for Tully at home. Her mom, Cloud, is as hippie as it gets, and is too busy smoking weed to be a proper mother.
While the two don’t hit it off immediately, after Tully faces a traumatic assault at a high school party, she turns to Kate for companionship. The two quickly become inseparable, doing everything from stargazing on the roof to skipping school and getting high together. They face bullies and several embarrassing teen moments, but whatever happens, they are always there for each other.
Skip forward to the 80s, where Tully and Kate are now college graduates and working together in a local news station. Tully has always had a dream to be a famous news anchor, and she’s well on her way to becoming one with her confident attitude and go-getter personality. Kate is content with being on the writing and producing side, although she doesn’t show as much motivation as Tully when it comes to securing a great career. As adults, a male coworker suddenly tangles the two best friends into a crazy and convoluted love triangle. Johnny Ryan, with his long hair and charming Australian accent, immediately captures the attention of an infatuated Kate, but he never seems to be interested in her. Meanwhile Tully, who has never had a problem grabbing the attention of men, has Johnny wrapped around her finger.
Skip ahead yet again to 2003 (“present day”), where the two friends are in their forties and lead lives that have become vastly different. Tully is the host of a popular, Ellen-esque daytime TV show called The Girlfriend Hour, and has achieved celebrity status. While her penthouse apartment with the Seattle skyline view may be gorgeous, she still feels terribly alone and unfulfilled. It is revealed that Kate ended up marrying Johnny, only for them to be going through a divorce with an angsty teenage daughter in tow. Kate has been a housewife and out of work for the past 14 years; with her failed marriage and a daughter that wants nothing to do with her, she is itching to get back into the workforce and fulfill the career dreams that she never got to achieve before motherhood.
Throughout the series’ ten episodes, we travel back and forth between these three key eras of the two women’s lives. We are shown how as teens, Tully and Kate live relatively fun and carefree lives, but they still face hardships within their own families. In the 80s, they are excited and hopeful for their upcoming careers as reporters, but various lies and betrayals test their friendship, while newsroom heartthrob Johnny also throws in some conflict. In the present of 2003, they question how their lives have turned out, and they also face new challenges that range from post-divorce dating to unexpected pregnancies.
While the chemistry between Chalke and Heigl is great, ultimately this series and its story do not offer anything new when it comes to the female friendship genre. The story of the two characters’ lives and how they developed is interesting, sure, but it lacks the key factor of being an appealingly fresh take. The formula of one friend who is focused on a career + one friend who is focused on a family feels outdated and unoriginal.
Even though it was one of the largest components of the plot, my least favorite part of the series was the whole love triangle revolving around Johnny Ryan. He’s a pretentious reporter that gives a whole speech about how the work he’s doing in local news is worthless, and how he wants to “get out there” and “tell the real stories.” His accent just adds to his cliche rom-com character type, who isn’t particularly compelling in the first place.
The rift that Johnny drives between Tully and Kate is also frustrating to watch. The director was probably aiming to use it as a driving force to get the audience to root for Johnny and Kate as a couple, but honestly, the relationships between the three characters get pretty toxic. Johnny’s first choice is clearly the outgoing Tully, who enjoys having him chase her while she is well aware of the fact that her best friend is in love with him. Kate doesn’t bother trying to make a first move, but she also can’t move on and be with other people. The whole thing is gross and twisted, not romantic or cute.
While Chalke and Heigl are both charming in their own ways, the show’s plot is boring, despite having three different eras to flip through. While there are a lot of ups and downs, the series feels like a continuous cycle of Tully doing something horrible, and Kate is there to clean up the mess and forgive her, while Johnny is being useless in the background. It’s a formula that gets old quick, and doesn’t keep you wanting to watch more.
The series finale ended on a true ass of a cliffhanger. Two years in the future, Kate and her daughter are at a funeral (I won’t spoil who the funeral is for). When Tully appears in front of the church, Kate dismisses her and says she never wants to speak to her again. We are given absolutely no clue as to why Kate is mad, or what terrible act Tully has committed. I suppose we’ll have to wait for a Season 2 renewal to find out what happened, but honestly, you’re probably better off just reading the book.