Firefly Lane, based on the bestselling novel by Kristin Hannah, dives into the decades-long friendship between Kate (Sarah Chalke) and Tully (Katherine Heigl).
The show, centered on a female friendship that highlights the highs, lows, and messes, is a good substitute for new seasons of Sweet Magnolias and Virgin River. The pilot episode does a good job of hooking you and making you want to return for more. We’ll get to that cliffhanger eventually, but oof, it’s a lot to unpack.
At times, the transitions between the three different timelines are confusing, but they’re necessary to paint a clear picture of who these women are, their backgrounds, and what inspired their eternal friendship… for now, at least.
Tully’s childhood was tumultuous thanks to a hippie mother, who went by the name of Cloud, and once took her to a protest in a Scooby van and lost her there. That’s really all you need to know about the lack of parental guidance in her life, which later in life fuels plenty of abandonment issues. I don’t really understand why her grandmother kept allowing Cloud to take Tully instead of just getting sole custody of the girl, but regardless, moving in with her mom on Firefly Lane led her to meet her soulmate, Kate.
Their friendship didn’t happen overnight, however.
Unlike Tully, the girl who got all the attention from everyone in school, Kate was a bit of an outcast. As Cloud put it, she looked like she “just walked out of an encyclopedia” with her thick-framed ’70s glasses. But there was something absolutely charming about her that carried over into adulthood, where, you guessed it, she still struggles to “figure it out.”
Kate and Tully were and continue to be polar opposites. But they always say opposites attract, and it’s likely what has allowed their friendship to work so well over the years.
While we don’t actually see them form a friendship during the high school timeline, we do see Kate lying for Tully when she steals cigarettes.
At this point, she also learns that Tully’s mother is a free-spirit and thus, Tully embraces the attention anywhere she can get it, especially from boys.
Meanwhile, Kate’s mother is more maternal and overprotective, which even forces her brother to hide the fact that he’s gay. Props to Tully for keeping that secret!
We also see both the ladies later in life as they dip their toes in the workforce. Tully is working at a local news station and tries to finagle Kate a job by basically ambushing her stud of a boss, Johnny Ryan.
From the moment Kate lays on him, she’s smitten, but he doesn’t immediately take notice of her. Eventually, she reveals her big crush to Tully right before the duo gets pretty handsy on the dance floor during a team outing.
This parallels the local school dance in the present where Kate once again feels like she’s in Tully’s shadow when she sees her cozying up to her PTA crush, Travis.
In the present, Tully’s fame is only amplified as she now hosts her own talk show, “The Girlfriend Hour.” Interestingly, there was a small scene in the past where her mother, high as a kite, was watching the Carol Burnett Show and noted how much she loved her. It gives you a sense that Tully pursued a career in the public eye, specifically as a talk show host, in a desperate attempt to make her mother happy/to be noticed.
But while Tully may be beloved by millions of fans who approach her on the street for hugs and autographs, she’s not happy. It’s a classic case of you can have everything you want in life and still be unhappy.
Due to her abandonment issues, Tully avoided starting a family or getting too close to anyone and instead, invested herself fully into her career.
She made herself unavailable, and that continues on when she has a one-night stand with Max, a 29-year-old she meets at a bar. After they have sex, she’s not interested in the small talk or grabbing dinner because she runs away from any type of emotional connection or commitment.
Kate, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. When we meet her in the adult-stages, she’s a single mom going through a divorce. Her daughter is lashing out by skipping school and she’s on the hunt for a job after years of unemployment.
Firefly Lane Review – A Story of Friendship, Heartbreak and Trauma Spanning Three Decades
She’s a first-hand example of a woman who put her career on hold to have a family. When she arrives at her interview for an assistant editor, audiences get a look at how hard it is for working moms to get back into the game.
The woman doing the hiring, Kimber Watts, is half her age, and not impressed with the gap on her resume. Raising a child doesn’t qualify as “experience” in the workplace.
But since Kate is desperate, she uses her friendship with Tully to land her the gig. So, essentially, she’s still starting from scratch just like she was the first time Tully landed her the job at the local news station.
Tully and Kate both lead very different lives and are in two different stages of their lives, but their struggles are both valid and something we can all relate to on some level.
They envy each other for what the other has, but the audience sees that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side; they’re both messed up in their own ways.
In the final moments of the episode, Kate, who is already upset with Tully for stealing the spotlight at the school dance, sees her daughter’s Planned Parenthood paperwork, and worse, realizes Tully signed off on them without telling her.
While Tully didn’t mean any harm, it’s still a breach of trust from the woman who is supposed to be her friend. And it once again digs into the part of Kate that feels like she can never be as good and as adored as Tully.
Which makes the final scene even harder to swallow. After the dance, Tully goes home to find a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, a delivery from Max, who clearly wants to pursue things past the one-night stand. She’s impressed with the gesture when she hears a knock at the door.
You wouldn’t be the only person who thinks it’s Max, but nope, it’s Johnny, Tully’s old boss and… Kate’s ex-husband and baby daddy.
Throughout the entirety of the episode, the identity of Kate’s husband was kept under wraps, but all signs were pointing to Johnny.
However, Johnny comes to Tully’s to tell her that he made a big mistake in life, which seems to allude to the fact that he’s always had feelings for her.
This might be messier than we ever anticipated.
Kate and Tully’s friendship may be strong, but could it withstand this bombshell? And even if Tully had feelings for Johnny, she’d never do that to the only stable and true relationship in her life, would she?