This review contains spoilers.
It’s based on the novel by Kristin Hannah, and if I had known it was based on a book, I would have chosen to read it first. But here we are, two days later and I’ve binged the entire show in two sittings and I have a lot of feelings.
I’m not going to lie – anytime I see Heigl on screen – I think rom-com, Grey’s Anatomy, happy feelings, and put-you-to-bed on a high. With the added nostalgia factor of Chalke from Scrubs, of course, I clicked on the show instantly.
Firefly Lane is centered around the friendship of two girls, Tully Hart and Kate Mularkey, stretched over timelines that tug between their teenage years (teenage Tully and Kate are played by Roan Curtis and Ali Skovbye), their early 20s and their 40s. The transitions between each of the timelines are beautifully done and I’ll give cinematography all the points for that. But while they were artfully curated, they didn’t feed into the story or connect the pieces as carefully as we would have liked. They skipped over, rushed over – brushing past the intimacy that we needed.
But let’s get into what the show does. It’s funny how much the show pulls on literary tropes – Tully the cool girl with a punctured past becomes your iconic central character fuelled with trauma and a goal to escape everything her family put her through (in this case, her mom). And then there’s Kate. Good, wholesome, so typically nerdy Kate who rushes in and saves Tully from her mess of a mother.
And maybe it’s an unexpected friendship, maybe somehow it makes all the sense in the world but their blazing connection and on-screen chemistry worked for me. It was tainted and dark with a silver-lining kind of happy ending feeling that pushed you into believing everything will be alright, as long as they had each other.
One specific moment that comes to mind is where Tully throws rocks at Kate’s window and she comes out to see the fireflies that have lit the night sky. Bright orange and celestial fireflies dot the screen as the pair cycle down the street, time-stretching over and pulling you into their world.
The most powerful timeline and the one that the viewers will probably cling to the most is when the two characters are in their early 40s. Tully plays a famous Seattle talk-show host and Kate is struggling with her estranged husband Johnny (played by Ben Lawson) and trying to get back into the workforce after 14 years.
Johnny is the mesmerizing heartthrob of the show. He’s handsome, driven, ambitious and oh- that accent just gets you. There’s a lot of inner turmoil presented through his character but what the show doesn’t delve too much into is his history with Tully. It seems like she has a big role to play in Kate and Johnny’s relationship and the first time we see him with Tully, it seems like there’s something there that doesn’t reach the surface throughout the series.
Tully’s character, from a young age, emerges with a force. She’s a go-getter, ready to take on the world of journalism with a storm. From reporting a story after she’s been shot, to taking every advantage to step into the role of the anchor when the host of the show is injured. She’s outwardly self-assured, vivid, confident and yet when you break past the exuding magnetism of her persona, you discover a deep yearning for human connection within her… one she’s pushed away all her life but desperately wanted from her eccentric and drug-addict mother, cloud (played by Beau Garrett).
She has star power, as everyone tells her from a young age, but you know secretly all she wants is some love. It’s tragic and conflicting and Heigl does what she does best – draws you deep into the disposition of her character that you’re rooting for her to have it all.
Meanwhile, captivating Kate is more inclined to be the sidekick. She takes a backseat while Tully shines bright. Her lack of confidence, neurotic behavior, and grappling relationship with her daughter Marah (Yael Yurman) all just isn’t done well enough.
There’s too much missing within the scenes that jump back and forth that we aren’t given enough to cling to. Her marriage ended because of an emotional affair, and she falls quickly for a photographer and shares a steamy kiss with him in a restaurant alley. But then she ends up in an almost relationship with her PTA crush which just leaves a sour taste because we’re rooting for her and Johnny since their chemistry is everything.
The most recent and final timeline takes place at a funeral, where Tully and Kate are no longer friends. It’s thrown in so randomly, and brushed over that we don’t get enough time to take it in. There isn’t even build up, or enough back story for the ending that crashes into an awkward and uncomfortable confrontation between the two besties (soulmates).
That’s not to say the show didn’t touch upon a lot of important elements. Ranging from rape, when Tully is assaulted in the woods at only 14. To the predators of the media industry when Tully is in her 20s and trying to move up her career ladder. To speaking about menopause and miscarriages, transitioning back to work as a single parent, dating post-divorce.
There’s a lot wrapped into the 10-part series and as much as I want to say the show was great, it did lack something. It made me cry, a lot in a way that everything Heigl stars in does. Maybe it was the whimsical nature in which the show collided into emotions that warped you into believing it was creating a connection between two women that would be long-lasting.
There’s a certain poetry to the show. It’s dolled up in costumes and a nostalgic score and dreams manifesting into reality. Of things happening for the better. And the overwhelming feeling of hope rushing through you. And that’s probably why I kept watching.
It’s the light kind of show that gets you through the horrors of reality we all cling to at a time like this. You shouldn’t expect the world from a show that relies heavily on being watchable. But you can expect to feel good, temporarily, lost in the realism of it all.
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