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Firefly Lane

Firefly Lane Review – Living Regular Lives (1×02)

FIREFLY LANE (L to R) SARAH CHALKE as KATE, KATHERINE HEIGL as TULLY, and BEN LAWSON as RYAN in episode 102 of FIREFLY LANE. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2020

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Firefly Lane Season 1 Episode 2 picks up with a high school-aged Tully heading to a party with her “boyfriend” Pat. 

It’s clear that Tully will do anything to fit in and keep up her “cool” persona including drinking way too much. But when Pat comes on a little too strongly, she does her best to push him off. 

We see Tully get raped as she desperately pleads for Pat to stop. After the act, as she lays in the forest broken, Pat tries to justify his vile actions by victim-blaming and saying she asked for this by leading him on.

It’s a heartbreaking scene but one that helps illuminate Tully’s decision to sign off on Marah’s birth control form for Planned Parenthood. As someone who had their choice taken away, Tully likely thinks that she’s doing a good thing for a young girl who wants to be protected and informed. 

Obviously, that’s not the way Kate sees it. Instead, she flips out on Tully for going behind her back and crossing the line. Her reaction is valid too as she feels like once again, everyone is choosing Tully over her. Even her own daughter couldn’t confide in her. And at a time when her life is falling apart, this is yet another instance where she loses control. 

Kate’s anger carries on for much of the episode, which drives Tully crazy; she’s very dependent on her best friend to be there for her. 

On Firefly Lane Season 1 Episode 1, Johnny returned from New York and visited Tully first. He informs her that he got the job and will be going to Iraq soon, which she’s slightly upset about. 

He reminds her of something she said during a coke-binge in the 80s that he believes still rings true today: “People like us can’t live regular lives. When we try, it kills us.”

Tully laughs it off, but there’s a hint of truth to the quote as both Johnny and Tully haven’t really found much success in the 9-to-5 lifestyle; they both feel suffocated. 

We see Tully and Johnny’s relationship on a deeper level in both the past and the present. During the coke-infused party back in the day, Tully injures herself dancing on a table, which almost leads to the two sharing a kiss. In the present-day, they still banter like an old married couple. There’s certainly an enormous amount of chemistry here for a girl and her best friend’s ex-husband. 

Johnny pays Kate a visit eventually and it seems like they’re pretty amicable exes. He mentions in passing that they divorced because she flirted and developed feelings for a PTA parent (maybe Travis?) but it’s unclear if that was the catalyst. Since divorce is such a big and serious decision, there likely had to be something else contributing to their fallout, especially since they’re on such good terms and seem to support each other in their new career endeavors.

Kate starts her new job as Kimber’s assistant and it offers the series a few moments of levity: think middle-aged woman consoling a bratty 29-year-old with a “major hangover” who asks her to express her pooches glands. All in a day’s work, right?

Kate, however, also proves that she can walk the walk by saving Kimber during a meeting with her boss and providing her with a good article pitch about modern dating. See, despite the gaps in her resume where she dedicated her whole life to raising Marah, she did stay “in the loop.” Once a good journalist, always a good journalist. 

While dealing with the dog, Kate also has a run-in with a photographer, who later asks her to “test the lights” and calls her beautiful. It’s a special moment and quite possibly the first time that Kate has felt “seen.” She’s so used to being in Tully’s shadows that she doesn’t even realize her own beauty. But, she’s reminded of it when the photog sends over the headshot.

In the flashback scenes, Kate’s brother, Sean, comes back from the navy and it’s a happy moment for all. Everyone parties in the newsroom till the wee hours of the morning, and Tully gets the scoop about his older boyfriend, who he believes is the one. Sadly, at the time, coming clean about being gay could get him discharged, so Sean is forced to live in secret. He considers telling Kate the truth, which means Tully has kept his secret since seeing him and Robbie making out. However, he decides against it when Kate keeps asking about his “girlfriend.”

As a journalist myself who has spent quite some time working in newsrooms, I can’t help but notice that they don’t seem to work all that much. I guess back in the day, you didn’t have 24/7 news stations focusing on digital, but they really are going hard in the workplace.

It’s in this moment that Kate also realizes that Johnny can see through Tully’s allure; he sees a girl that’s deeply saddened. This moment leads me to believe that while he had feelings for Tully once upon a time, he also loved her because she was so broken. And it’s a different kind of love than the feelings he developed for Kate over time. 

In the present, Tully once again hooks up with Max, the 29-year-old former one night stand, who we learn is an EMT. We don’t really know much about Max yet, but he seems good for Tully in the sense that he’s “normal.” Hopefully, she doesn’t push him away like she’s pushed away everyone else.

During their brief chat, Tully informs him that her mother died when she was 15. But something about that doesn’t strike me as true. Of course, her mother had plenty of vices and questionable boyfriends, so her death wouldn’t be surprising, but the way Tully said it made me think that she meant “death” metaphorically as in “she’s dead to me.” Regardless, I can’t wait to find out more because Tully’s troubled childhood informs her current person. 

By the end of the episode, Tully and Kate make up after Tully throws rocks at Kate’s window just like she did when they were young girls on Firefly Lane

And then, the series introduces yet another timeline two years into the future. 

Kate is looking out at the horizon when Marah approaches her and they think back fondly on “Aunt Tully.” It’s a cryptic scene, but the somber tone of their conversation and the black outfits suggest that Tully passed away. 

There are many avenues that can be explored here, but thinking back on what we’ve seen and how Tully briefly considered jumping off her building balcony in the pilot episode, I’m inclined to think it was suicide.

And it all brings me back to the quote from the 80s that Johnny mentioned upon his return: “People like us can’t live regular lives. When we try, it kills us.”

Was the series teasing Tully’s death throughout the episode with her reckless and destructive behavior? She avoided a regular life because she was running away from her demons and was too afraid of commitment. Did it finally catch up to her?

There’s also the very real possibility that the series is trying to fool us with comments of Tully, but it isn’t actually her funeral. Weigh in with your thoughts. 

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Lizzy Buczak is the founder of CraveYouTV. What started off as a silly blog in her sophomore year at Columbia College Chicago turned her passion for watching TV into an opportunity! She has been in charge of CraveYou since 2011, writing reviews and news content for a wide variety of shows. Lizzy is a Music Business and Journalism major who has written for RADIO.COM, TV Fanatic, Time Out Chicago, Innerview, Pop’stache and Family Time.

Firefly Lane

Firefly Lane Season 2 Part 2 Biggest Moments

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Firefly Lane Season 2 Part 2 dropped on April 27—moved up from its original premiere date of June 8—and hit fans in the feels with a powerful storyline about friendship, loss, and letting go. 

We’re breaking down the biggest, most jaw-dropping, and heartbreaking moments from the final episodes below:

 

Kate Dies

This is arguably the biggest development, though the least surprising. If you’ve read the Firefly Lane books, you know that Kate succumbs to cancer, but seeing her journey through diagnosis, recovery, and eventually, the terminal stage, is heartbreaking to see pan out on screen. Kate displays an array of emotions—from shock to anger to sadness and eventually, acceptance—which can also be said for the people who loved her. Johnny, Tully, and Marah are there for Kate every step of the way, holding her close and struggling to imagine a future without her in it. Eventually, Kate’s time comes and she dies a peaceful and serene death alone overlooking the beautiful view of her dream home. 

Firefly Lane Season 2 Part 2 Review Kate's Cancer

Firefly Lane. (L to R) Sarah Chalke as Kate, Katherine Heigl as Tully in episode 216 of Firefly Lane. Cr. Diyah Pera/Netflix © 2023

She Gets Married to Johnny… Again

Much of the first half of Firefly Lane Season 2 focused on Johnny and Kate finding their way back to each other, and it was a little frustrating at times to see two people who loved each other so much constantly push each other away and hurt each other. However, the back half of the season finally gave us all the Kate and Johnny moments, including their second wedding. While the blissful moments were clouded by Kate’s cancer, we saw a beautiful display of love, with Johnny living up to “in sickness and in health.” It was also vital that the series showed a realistic portrayal of cancer as Kate and Johnny still made time for their sex life and having fun as a couple while also supporting each other when things got tough, all the way through Kate’s final moments. 

Firefly Lane. (L to R) Ben Lawson as Johnny, Sarah Chalke as Kate in episode 212 of Firefly Lane. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

Marah Gets Married

There was a lot of speculation about the flash-forward scene at a wedding, with many thinking that it was Johnny and Tully’s wedding. For those who have been shipping Tully and Dan, you’ll be pleased to know that she did not take Kate’s blessing to be with Johnny seriously, and the duo did not get married. When Johnny is waiting for the bride, he’s waiting for Marah to show up and marry a doctor. It’s the reason why Johnny is so nervous yet excited—his baby girl is all grown up! And Tully is there, keeping her promise to Kate, to take care of Marah as she pins the veil on her goddaughter. 

 

Tully and Danny End Up Together

Can you say finally? Tully and Danny’s relationship was 20 years in the making. but the timing was finally right. And they were ready to make it work. Danny called off his engagement to his fianceé Celeste after she kissed Tully, while Tully stopped pushing Danny away and admitted that she loved him and wanted to be with him. We don’t see Danny in the flash forward to Marah’s wedding, but we do hear his voice calling Tully downstairs, so it’s safe to say that they’ve made it work for over a decade.

Firefly Lane. (L to R) Katherine Heigl as Tully, Ignacio Serricchio as Danny in episode 212 of Firefly Lane. Cr. Diyah Pera/Netflix © 2023

Lightning Strikes Lisa-Karen

Kate and Lisa-Karen’s friendship took a bit of a backburner once Tully came back into the picture, but after she walked in on Kate making out with Coop, the hottest guy in school, the two began chatting again with Kate even scheduling a hang-out at Lisa-Karen’s house. Unfortunately, Lisa-Karen died shortly after offering to cover Kate’s shift so that she could go on a hot date with Coop.

As things between Kate and Coop get hot and heavy with Coop, Lisa-Karen gets struck by lightning while taking out the trash. Kate blames herself for Lisa-Karen’s death, telling Tully that it should’ve been her, but the truth is that it was just a freak accident. 

 

Hot for Teacher, Hot for Coop

Kate’s secret romance with Coop, who was too embarrassed to admit his feelings for her in front of his friends, was a huge focus of the high school timeline, as was Tully’s crush on her English teacher. Thankfully, he never reciprocated those feelings, setting boundaries instead, while Kate eventually realized Coop was not the guy she wanted to be with. When he finally owned up to his feelings and told the whole school Kate was his girlfriend, she turned him down like the boss that she is. 

Firefly Lane. (L to R) Roan Curtis as Young Kate, Ali Skovbye as Young Tully in episode 211 of Firefly Lane. Cr. Diyah Pera/Netflix © 2023

Kate’s Masterpiece

With her days limited, Kate decided to finish writing her book, which she later revealed was the story of her life titled Firefly Lane. She gave one version to Johnny to give to Marah when she was old enough so she could get to know her mother while the other copy was given to Tully at Kate’s funeral. Kate’s note told Tully that whenever she misses her, she can open the book and find her within the words. It was a beautiful way to pay tribute to Kate’s passion for writing and her friendship with Tully, while also honoring her life story.

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Firefly Lane

Does Kate Die on ‘Firefly Lane’?

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Firefly Lane Review Dancing Queens Season 1 Episode 3

Firefly Lane Season 2 Part 1 ended on quite a devastating cliffhanger with fans clamoring for some insight into Kate Mularkey’s (Sarah Chalke) fate. 

After being diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer during a doctor’s visit, Kate bolted to Tully Hart’s (Katherine Heigl) penthouse apartment to seek out comfort and make amends. The former best friends were not on speaking terms at the time, however, the soul-crushing news forced Kate to reach out to the only person she’s ever trusted. Sadly, they missed each other by mere moments—as Kate got off the elevator to visit her friend, Tully got on the elevator with her bags to hop on a plane for a months-long assignment in Antarctica.

And now that the final few episodes of Firefly Lane Season 2 Part 2 aired on April 27 on Netflix, fans now know that, as many of us feared, Kate did not survive. 

The Netflix drama is based on Kristin Hannah’s novel of the same name, so if you’ve read the book, there’s a good chance you weren’t surprised by the ending.  

The back half of the season details Kate’s journey with cancer and the emotional toll it takes on her and her loved ones. 

After an initial round of chemo, during which Kate loses her hair and experiences bouts of nausea, she goes into remission, which is an exciting sign. But the day before her second wedding to Johnny, she gets a call from her doctor informing her that her cancer has returned. She keeps the information from everyone hoping that they can all just get a day to sit back, relax, and celebrate, but when she collapses on the bathroom floor before the ceremony, she comes clean to Johnny. Not long after, she takes a tumble on the dance floor and Tully also learns the truth before the rest of her family receives the grim prognosis. 

Everyone does their best to get the necessary help, with Johnny (Ben Lawson) hiring holistic medical professionals while Tully and Dan the Sports Man attempt to get Kate into clinical trials, the latter of whom is successful. Unfortunately, Kate suffers a seizure which means that her cancer has progressed and she has mere weeks left to live.

No one wants to admit that she is dying, but Kate assures them that they have to start letting go. She eventually learns the cancer spread to her brain, which makes her disqualified from the trial.

From there, all they can do is be there for her, bask in her glory, and soak up all the moments together before they are gone forever. 

Kate dies a peaceful death alone overlooking the beautiful lake view from her home. Prior to her death, she managed to fulfill a lifelong goal of writing a book—aptly titled Firefly Lane– which tells her and Tully’s story; the good the bad, and the ugly parts.

She gifts the finished novel to her BFF Tully and her daughter Marah to get to know her mother’s story when the time comes.

It’s a devastating ending but one rooted in reality—and an important lesson to seize the day because nothing is ever guaranteed. 

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Firefly Lane

Firefly Lane Season 2 Part 2 Review – Dancing Queens

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Firefly Lane Season 2 Part 2 Review Kate's Cancer

Good storytelling can make you laugh and cry all in the same breath—and the final handful of Firefly Lane episodes did just that. 

The series gave a raw and powerful look at Kate’s cancer diagnosis, digging deep to reveal how it affected everyone—from the patient to the loved ones in her orbit.

What started as a fun journey documenting the past and present experiences of two best friends became an incredible story of resilience and strength But most importantly, it was an important reminder that life is not fair and we don’t have all the time in the world.

Firefly Lane Season 2 Part 2 doubled down on the bond between Tully and Kate, now tested more than ever as they navigated a health crisis while also figuring out how to deal with the resentment they held towards each other after their explosive fight. And there was also the struggle of figuring out how they move forward without each other now that life has thrown them an unexpected curveball. 

Despite everyone’s positive thinking—ours included—Kate died. We knew it was going to happen, especially if you read the book, but seeing it pan out on screen and watching this fierce and loyal woman wither away with each passing day in the most graceful manner was emotionally taxing yet somehow inspirational.

For Kate, and her family and friends, there was no happily-ever-after as you see in the movies because that’s not how things happen in the real world, no matter how many holistic practices you put your faith into and how many phone calls are to get into a clinical trial.

Kate’s cancer was too aggressive, eventually spreading to her brain and limiting her days left. 

We saw her loved ones dealing with the harsh reality that they had to let her go and desperately trying to avoid any thoughts about what a future without her might look like, but we also got a poignant look into how Kate grappled with the fact that she was nearing the end—and that she wasn’t ready to die so soon. She wasn’t ready to miss out on so many big moments like Marah’s wedding, being a grandmother, and enjoying a second shot at love with Johnny. 

Kate’s cancer was hard to accept for those that loved her because as Kate’s mother Margie noted, it wasn’t fair. Margie smoked all her life and didn’t have cancer. Cloud, Tully’s dysfunctional mother, took every drug on the planet and was somehow still alive. And yet Kate, who exercised and took care of her health, was the one who got sick. 

Kate had so much life left to live, but cancer doesn’t care.

We all know we’re going to die, but there’s something so strikingly different about knowing you’re dying or knowing that person that you love more than life itself is slipping away

And thus, Kate lived every day like it was her last. She remarried Johnny, she danced it out at her wedding, she had as much sex with Johnny as her body would allow, she went horseback riding so she could feel free and at peace, she smoked pot with her uptight mom, Cloud, and her best friend (which. may have been my favorite scene), and she finally finished writing a book. 

Firefly Lane. (L to R) Ben Lawson as Johnny, Sarah Chalke as Kate in episode 212 of Firefly Lane. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

And it was a special one at that as it was the story of her life, aptly titled Firefly Lane—a book that would serve as a reminder to Tully about all their adventures and special moments, fights included, but also one that would help Marah remember her mother and really get to know her. 

Kate’s time on Earth was stolen, but through it, she realized that all of those things we all worry about in life are so silly. All that really matters is the people you love and the ones that love you back. In that regard, she was incredibly lucky because she had a tribe of people who fought like hell for her and put everything aside to be with her in her final days. Kate won the lottery when it came to loved ones. 

Kate always thought of herself in such a negative light, repeatedly saying she wasn’t anything more than a housewife and a mother, but she was a housewife and a mother; there’s nothing more important than that. She was also the glue that held Tully together—personally and professionally. She was the one who raised and accepted Marah every step of the way, and she was the one who allowed Johnny to flourish in his career.

It may have been cut short, but it was a life well lived, and we got a front seat to all of it, which is why it was so hard for us to let go as well.

Tully and Kate’s friendship was codependent, and not always healthy, but it was also so rare. A friendship that special is hard to come by, so when Tully found out that Kate was sick, she dropped everything to be by her side. 

Their fight was addressed—and both of their feelings were valid. Kate’s response was to push Tully away after she risked Marah’s life by driving drunk and getting into an accident, but Tully was so hurt by the abandonment because in one fell swoop she lost her entire family. Kate and the Mularkeys were everything to her, and they all turned on her after one bad judgment call.

The series never sugarcoated anything, so those big, ugly, and emotional moments were addressed even during the inappropriate times as Kate was fighting for her life. Kate gave Tully the space to feel angry at her because she was dying, which unintentionally broke their promise of being together forever and going into a retirement home together when they were old. Their love story was cut short, and there was nothing they could do about it. 

We watched Tully and Kate’s friendship change through so many phases of their lives; they were on two different paths and yet, somehow, always on the same page. It was always them against the world until it wasn’t.

Kate’s cancer took everything away from her—and it took her away from Tully. As Kate said, in a way, she got off easier because she didn’t have to face the world without her best friend.

But Tully did. And we saw that she kept the promise she made Kate to help her raise Marah all the way into the ’90s. In Kate’s absence, she was Marah’s fairy godmother, pinning her goddaughter with a veil for her wedding in the flash-forward that takes place 10 years in the future. 

It was cruel of the creative forces behind the show to show Kate next to Tully, giving a bit of false hope that Kate beat the cancer and lived for much longer, only for audiences to realize that Tully was simply imagining her best friend there for her daughter’s big day. 

I wish we got to see a little more from those flash-forwards to see how everyone was holding up without Kate, particularly Johnny. We know Marah got married, and we know that Tully’s romance with Dan was going strong as his voice could be heard calling her down to the ceremony, but what’s Johnny up to? Kate gave him permission to move on and be happy as she didn’t want him to be alone—even giving him and Tully her blessing to be together—but seeing how devoted he was to Kate, I don’t think he would ever choose to be with anyone else. Still, the thought of Johnny getting older on his own and missing his wife daily pains me. 

Kate’s death scene was so powerful because it was the one time she got to be kind of selfish. I know that sounds weird, but she was always pleasing everyone around her and putting them first. When she went to therapy and they asked her how she was doing, she talked about everyone else’s feelings but her own. But in that moment, without anyone around, she was no longer holding on for someone else—she felt empowered to let go and be free. It would have been nice if she passed away surrounded by all of her loved ones, especially Tully considering they did everything together, but that’s why it was so necessary for her character. 

The back half of the season also made it clear that life doesn’t stop for everyone just because someone is sick. Tully’s world kept spinning as her relationship with Dan the Sports Man intensified. I didn’t see the twist with Dan’s fianceé making a move on Tully coming, but it seems neither did she. Tully has always pushed people away in the name of self-preservation, so it made sense that she wanted to do that while her friend was dying, but it was also incredibly brave of her to finally take the leap and go after what she wanted. She did need a rather large push from Dan, who threatened to move to New York since she dodged his calls after saying “I love you”, but she eventually got there. It was only a relationship 20 years in the making. 

Kate’s cancer storyline was so powerful and moving that it could have easily overshadowed other parts of the season, but the flashbacks to the high school years and Kate’s engagement provided an escape—it was almost like you were reminiscing on the good old days right along with them. 

In high school, Kate ended up snagging the “big man on campus,” Coop, but while he knew all the right things to say to her in private, the truth is that he was a real douche who was too embarrassed to admit that he liked her in front of his “cool” friends. Eventually, Kate realized that Coop wasn’t the standup guy she thought he was, and when he mustered up the courage to announce in front of the whole school that she was his girlfriend, Kate turned him down in glorious fashion.

I wish we could have seen a brief reunion with Coop just to see what he’s up to in the present day and what kind of man he became. I know this is Kate’s story and he was just a blip in it who doesn’t deserve the time of day, but I would’ve liked to see if the experience with Kate changed Coop in any way. 

Tully was in love with her teacher, who, thankfully, did not pursue her back, and the story arc was proof that Tully always just wanted to be loved and seen. 

We also got more insight into Kate’s engagement with Theo, who was a good guy just not the right guy for her. Kate was in denial about her feelings for Johnny, trying to convince herself that she wanted to be with Theo, but when Johnny declared his love for her, she couldn’t fight the feelings any longer. And the rest is history… and Theo has the scars to prove it as he lost a ball after coming home and trying to surprise Kate in the shower, who actually ended up being Johnny.

Kate was such a minx! 

Other Memorable Moments

  • Lisa-Karen’s storyline also didn’t have a happy ending, and it’s partly why Kate felt empowered to kick Coop to the curb. Kate and Coop weren’t responsible for Lisa-Karen’s death directly, but Kate still felt guilty because LK offered to cover for her at work while Kate snuck out for a steamy date If Kate never left, maybe LK would’ve still been alive. It was a terribly sad incident and an even worse end to their tumultuous friendship. 
  • We finally understood where Johnny’s commitment issues stemmed from as he confronted his dad, a priest, after finding out he was going to be a father. He blamed his dad for his mom’s addiction and death, realizing at that moment that he was never going to be like him. And he did an incredible job being a loyal husband and father to Kate and Marah. They were so lucky to have him. And its why he deserved so much more credit from Kate’s parents, who never fully approved of him. Though, it was nice to see him finally get some love from Bud on his wedding day.
  • Tully took Carol’s advice and decided to go back to hosting her own talk show, and it’s a bummer we never got to see it. Let’s hope Johnny served as a producer once again.
  • And finally, who knew I would ball so hard watching a woman do a choreographed dance to Abba outside of a funeral? But I know Kate was there doing it with Tully in spirit. 

Let this series serve as a reminder to live your life while it’s happening—make the bold choice, take the risks, love hard, and never wait till the end to say how you feel.

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