R E V I E W – S E R I E S
Based on the bestselling novel by Kristin Hannah, Netflix’s new original series, Firefly Lane follows the friendship of effortlessly cool and popular Tallulah “Tully” Hart (played by Katharine Heigl), and awkward, nerdy Kate Mularkey (played by Sarah Chalke). The two meet by chance when a young Tully moves across the street from Kate on Firefly Lane. Set over the course of three decades, Firefly Lane shows two inseparable best friends and their enduring, complicated bond. As the women transition from high school to young adulthood to middle-age, their friendship only grows stronger.
The story evolves as they navigate the ups and downs of school, relationships, and later on, their professional careers. Together they overcome childhood traumas, dysfunctional families, heartbreak, and even death. For thirty years, they watch each other grow into wisps of the girls they once knew — Kate, now a wife and mother, grows envious of her best friend’s success and tired of always living in her shadow — and Tully, despite being a successful and ambitious journalist and talk-show host with millions of fans, only grows lonelier day by day as she struggles to form meaningful connections.
They weather through the storms of friendship, jealousy, anger, hurt and resentment. But through it all, their friendship survives. Until one betrayal threatens to tear them apart. It is a common coming-of-age tale mixed with comedy, action, and heart-wrenching drama.
With well-known and beloved actresses like Katharine Heigl whom you might remember from her role as Lizzie in Grey’s Anatomy and Sarah Chalke, who is best known for her work in Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother, Firefly Lane already has all the markings of being a household name. Even before the series’ initial release, fans of the book series predicted it would be as heart-wrenching and dynamic as the book, maybe even more.
Tabassum Irin Zaman, a Bangladeshi book blogger who got the opportunity to hop onto a Zoom call with Katherine Heigl, Sarah Chalke, and Kristin Hannah earlier this week and access to an advance screening of the first couple of episodes, shared her favourite part of the show.
“Definitely the bond that Kate and Tully share. It wasn’t perfect, their relationship had dark moments, but at the end of the day, they chose their friendship before anything else. It’s kind of hard to see strong female friendships in Netflix shows, especially between middle-aged women – it added a very refreshing touch to the whole watching experience.”
She also mentioned how she “loved how the story swiftly changed between three decades, and blended to match the events happening in the duo’s lives at present time. Not to mention the 80s fashion representation with the vibrant outfits and stylish hair-dos was to die for.”
One thing which caught my attention over and over again is the show’s supposedly self-conscious attempts to side track its viewers from the insensitive plot points with lines like “I can’t believe we’re doing another makeover show, there’s a war going on!” or “Do I really have to dance down the stairs? It feels like I’m Ellen”.
The constant timeline switches every couple of minutes gave me a whiplash as I tried to keep up with all three complex plotlines; especially when the only noticeable changes between the two timelines in the 1980s and 2000s are their hair styles and less face tuned wrinkles. It constantly kept me at the edge of the seat, even missing one second of it meant I missed the key point and had to go back to check which time period we’re on. One minute teen Kate and Tully are getting into a silly argument; the next, 40-year-old Tully finds out she’s pregnant. The switching timelines often feel redundant because of the constant reminder from the current, “future” timeline where everything worked out and we can clearly see that Tully and Kate are still friends despite it all. It’s hard to stay invested in the plot when you already know what’ll happen in the end.
Another thing to note is that Firefly Lane is the latest in a short list of recent female-driven Netflix shows which include Dead to Me, Sweet Magnolia, Sex Education, Queen’s Gambit, Virgin River, and Dare Me. Each of these shows boasts a strong female cast, as well as being mostly written and produced by women. On top of that, most of these are being adapted from books written by female authors. Firefly Lane is clearly a show by women, about women, for women. Is this just Netflix’s attempt to stay relevant and get brownie points from their progressive Millennial and Gen-Z audience or is it too little, too late?
Firefly Lane glosses over its more impactful, heavy topics in the same way Tully Hart talks about her mother: non-existent and meaningless. Johnny dealing PTSD after experiencing his close friend being murdered in front of him for speaking up about injustices; Sean marrying a woman because he is too afraid to come out as gay and constantly lying about his feelings; and even Tully dealing with life-long trust and commitment issues because of being abandoned as a child — are all shown only at surface level and never really shown true solutions to.
That is not to say that Firefly Lane is all surface level and meaningless. I’d even say it pulls off quite the feat being as fun and light-hearted as it is, seeing how it contains heavy, triggering topics like rape, cancer, divorce, miscarriage, suicide, war, and substance abuse, among others. As a result, 10 episodes, each almost an hour long, goes by faster than you would think as we get pulled into this story of two small-town girls taking on the world and fighting their own everyday battles. Firefly Lane takes its mediocre, basic plot and adds twists to keep you at the edge of your seat.
Is it the best series ever made? No. But it is extremely satisfying to watch Kate and Tully overcome the hurdles of their friendship and grow as individuals throughout three decades of their lives. It is wholesome, realistic, and the perfect escapist series to binge on the weekend with a comfy sweater and a big bowl of popcorn.
Watch the official Firefly Lane Netflix trailer here.
The whole series is available to stream on Netflix from 3 January, 2021.
Sara Kabir is the quintessential Literature student, always finding joy in her favourite books, shows, songs, and artwork and being able to discuss them with her friends. Find her @scarletfangirl on Instagram to join in the discussion and see which new language she’s attempting to learn this week by watching TV shows and dramas.