Firefly Lane





Paul Asay

TV Series Review

Tully was famous before she was famous.

That’s what her best friend, Kate Mularkey, has always said. Even when they were both just 14, Tully would turn heads and draw crowds and wow just by walking into a room. Kate? When she was with Tully, she wasn’t just a wallflower: She might’ve been a wall.

They’re not 14 anymore, of course. They’re fortysomething. And the two of them have been the bestest of friends for, literally, decades. But even though each would gladly donate her kidney to the other (should the need arise), they can still get each other’s spleens in a bunch.

And sometimes, it’s with reason.

When Kate Met Tully

Tully’s still famous. Of course. She’s the beloved host of The Girlfriend Hour, an Oprah-like talkfest that folks in Seattle soak in like rain. She’s often stopped on the street for selfies, hugged by strangers in restaurants. And the men? Oh, they flock around her like nobody’s business. Kate imagines that her glamorous pal has it all.

But all of Tully’s shine and sizzle hides an emptiness inside. If Kate might envy Tully, Tully envies Kate, too—the solid, rooted mom who gives more than she gets. “Even at 14, she was kind,” Tully tells Kate’s daughter, Marah. “Nobody’s kind at 14.”

Seems strange that these very different people became friends at all. But it all came about on Firefly Lane, when both were teens and when Tully and her hippy, irresponsible mom, Cloud, moved in next door. Kate, like everyone, was attracted to Tully’s bohemian spark. Tully, like no one, saw Kate’s kindness and appreciated her solidity. Against all odds, their weird friendship survived careers and marriages, misunderstandings and insecurities.

But now, Kate’s marriage is falling apart, and she’s looking to dive back into the work force. As Kate uses her famous friend as a foot in the door at a popular Seattle magazine (this is 2003, after all, and magazines were still a thing), she watches as Tully draws every man she’s interested in—including her husband—to her, like flies to honey. Or maggots to meat.

Oh, and did we mention that Tully helped Marah get a prescription for birth control? Seems like Tully’s still stealing everything from Kate these days, including her own daughter. If the friendship can survive this rocky patch, well, it’s a rare friendship indeed.

Get the Bug Zapper

Firefly Lane, based on the 2008 novel by Kristin Hannah, is about a 30-year friendship. Too bad the show itself isn’t so friendly, especially for families.

This is particularly troubling, given that Hannah’s books are said to be targeted toward older teens, and the Netflix series could very well attract the same teen/YA audience. Given that the main characters are often teens themselves in this chronologically hopping series, it’s hardly a stretch to think that many adolescents might tune in.  

But while Tully and Kate are 14 in much of the story, the series itself is TV-MA (roughly equivalent to an R in movies), meaning that teens probably shouldn’t watch. And it carries a bevy of content caveats that justify that suggestion.  

Sex is a massive part of this show: One-night stands (at least one, in fact, is literally performed while standing), same-sex interludes and underage sex are all part of the stew here. One of the characters is sexually assaulted, too. And while no critical body parts show up on screen at least in the show’s early going, we still see plenty of skin and hear loads of crass conversation (along with plenty of profanity, too).

All of this content, naturally, detracts the sweet (if melodramatic) core of the story we’re supposed to embrace, smudging Firefly Lane’s wit and heart.

Netflix hoped to give us a tale of two women whose friendship could survive every challenge, overcome every circumstance. That’s admirable and all, but our relationship with television shows should be far more malleable. It’s good to stick with friends through thick and thin. But when it comes to TV, it’s sometimes good to just walk away.

Episode Reviews

Feb. 3, 2021, Episode 1: “Hello Yellow Brick Road”

In the 1970s, a teen Tully and her oft-stoned mother, Cloud, move in next door to Kate Mularkey and her family, and Kate is introduced to Tully’s charisma. In the 1980s, Tully helps Kate get a job at a Seattle television station, where Kate finds herself attracted to her boss, Ryan. In 2003, Kate’s marriage is falling apart, leading to conflict with her teenage daughter. Kate frets that she’s not a very good mother. And while Tully tells her that she’s an amazing mother, she also agrees to secretly help Kate’s teen daughter, Marah, get a prescription to birth control pills.

Marah insists to Tully that she’s not even planning on using the pills: She’s not having sex, she says. But she also insists that, in high school, a prescription for the pill is “practically a prerequisite.” And she’s about to go into high school. “If I’m ever thinking about having sex, then I’ll tell [Kate],” Marah promises Tully. “I swear.”

This is a fairly mild interlude compared to the other sexual content the show engages in. Tully has frantic sex with a younger man after the two meet. Afterward, the man tells Tully his name: “I didn’t ask,” Tully says, and tells him that she doesn’t do second dates. When Kate mourns her failing marriage, Tully consoles her by saying, “You’ve been with the same man and the same penis for 15 years,” adding that she has a future with so many more penises in store for her. Kate goes to a lingerie store (looking for something that might help her “from knees to boobs”) and meets her new crush there: She buys some slinky lingerie in an effort to impress him.

We see both adult Kate and Tully in their underwear. A teen Tully wears a miniskirt. She sees two boys (one of them being Kate’s brother) kissing. An adult Tully dances sultrily with a couple of men. Someone describes himself as a “serial monogamist.” [Spoiler Warning] Kate’s estranged husband comes to Tully’s apartment and asks if he might stay the night. The episode ends before Tully gives her answer.

Tully’s mother, Cloud, is a mess. It’s insinuated that she periodically deserts her daughter (leaving her in the care of Tully’s grandmother). When she returns, Tully’s grandmother suggests that she should go upstairs and sober up. Cloud denies she’s drunk or high. “Love is the ultimate high,” she says, looking at Tully. She whisks the child Tully away to an anti-war protest and promptly loses her there. As a teen, Tully covers for her mom’s attitude (and their filthy house) by telling Kate that Cloud has cancer—then later admits that her mom’s often stoned.

Cloud and Tully both smoke (with Tully stealing some cigarettes). And we see them drink wine, champagne, beer and whiskey. Tully says her show’s ratings will turn around when she interviews a woman who murdered her husband and fed him to the cat. Tully looks over the balcony of her glamorous Seattle flat as if considering a jump. There’s some discussion of a broken toilet (that includes the word “poop”). We also hear about 14 uses of the s-word, along with such profanities as “b–ch” and “h—.”

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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