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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

'Firefly Lane' floats between suspense and sentiment

Elaine Park | The Observer
Elaine Park | The Observer

I have not yet read one of Kristin Hannah’s novels in my lifetime, but Netflix’s adaptation of “Firefly Lane” has definitely put her on my radar. 

The TV series changes quite a few plot points — as well as character roles and arcs — but Hannah’s touch still glimmers here and there.

The story centers around neighbors-turned-best friends Kate Mularkey (Sarah Chalke) and Tully Hart (Katherine Heigl). Tully, short for Tallulah, grows up pretty quickly through a unique relationship with her mother, “Cloud" (Beau Garrett), who spends most of her days high and immersed in the counterculture movement of the 1960s. 

Tully doesn’t even meet Kate until her mother swoops in unannounced to reclaim her from her grandma, who she lived with for most of her life. When the Harts move in on Firefly Lane, the Mularkeys notice and Kate, whose friends have ditched her for climbing social ladder, wonders if she and Tully could be friends.

The series moves back and forth between the girls’ adolescence and their adult lives, flashing back and forward with the help of smooth transitions that ease viewers into the quick pace of the back-and-forth narrative. Some specific transitions that felt seamless to me involved a hot dog and two apple orchards. 

Heigl is a natural Tully Hart, a girl who somehow always ends up in the spotlight, even in high school. Chalke creates an endearing, adorkable Kate Mularkey who somehow manages to be aloof and alert simultaneously. 

Set in Seattle, the girls have a beautiful backdrop in which to grow up. Their (mostly Tully’s) gravitation toward journalism compels a writer like myself to keep up with the story, along with the solid cliffhangers at the end of each episode that give you just enough information to want to keep watching. I recommend setting time aside to binge watch this show if you are anything like me. 

Things get interesting when journalist Johnny Ryan (Ben Lawson) enters the picture and Kate falls hard, but he seems more interested in Tully, who has a tough time with relationships — probably because she has accumulated some trauma in her life. Several scenes in the show that involve the trio of Johnny, Kate and Tully reinforce the aspiration of forging lifelong friendships. 

Kate’s family life, while seemingly normal on the surface, has secrets of its own, specifically including her parents’ relationship and her brother’s sexuality. The character development and dynamics truly get better throughout the show, especially as the girls branch off into very different lifestyles but remain close friends. 

Tully’s talkshow, “The Girlfriend Hour,” has skyrocketed her to fame while Kate has gotten married, has had a daughter and has lived life as a mother and a wife. Unfortunately she and her husband (Spoiler alert: he has been mentioned in this article,) drift apart for reasons that made me want them to work it out and stay together. 

Johnny’s need to go find a piece of himself only adds to the recipe for suspense that leaves everyone hanging at the end of season one. That, and whatever gets between Tully and Kate, who I thought had an indestructible friendship.


Show: “Firefly Lane" Season 1

Starring: Katherine Heigl, Sarah Chalke, Ben Lawson

Favorite episodes: "Total Eclipse of the Hart," "Mawaige"

If you liked: "Grey's Anatomy," "Parenthood"

Where to watch: Netflix

Shamrocks: 5 out of 5