[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through the Season 1 finale of Firefly Lane, “Auld Lang Syne.”]
For a story based on female friendship, the new Netflix dramedy Firefly Lane is far more of a mystery than you’d expect, starting from the end of Episode 2, “Oh! Sweet Something,” which teases a tragic death in the lives of Tully (Katherine Heigl) and Kate (Sarah Chalke).
“We were both being polite, letting the other person go first,” Chalke told Collider. “But I was shocked. Reading the scripts, I didn’t know what was happening long-term. I didn’t know in Episode 2 what was happening in Episode 10. So of course, when I read that I went running to [showrunner Maggie Friedman] going, ‘Maggie, what’s going on?'”
While that misdirection implies that decades after becoming best friends as teenagers, Tully has passed away, this ends up not being the case. But it’s not the only twist packed into Season 1, and certainly not the only open plot thread that might become key in a potential Season 2.
The narrative framework of Firefly Lane is drawn directly from Kristin Hannah’s 2013 novel, and as Friedman and the cast explained during a recent press junket, the book was very much a touchstone for everyone on set. “It actually helps me so much,” Heigl said. “I wish every part I played was a novel that I could read first because it really helped me understand Tully and slip into her skin.”
That said, while the book is key to the creation of the series, Friedman was able to build real intrigue by changing the structure: Rather than tell the story linearly like the book does, Firefly Lane hops across various timeframes in each episode, jumping from when Tully and Kate originally met in the 1970s (played by Ali Skovbye and Roan Curtis) to their older selves, working in television news and growing up big time in the process.
As Friedman said, “My goal that I’m hoping that if somebody is watching at home and they get to the end of the episode, they want to roll through to the next one. I wanted to end each episode with a question where you want to come back to the next episode and see what the answer is. And those were fun. They were really fun to construct in the writers’ room. But it was a challenge because it’s like a puzzle, putting all of the different time periods together and making them fit and making sure that the themes kind of resonate across the eras. It was hard.”
For Ben Lawson, who plays Johnny, the man who gets caught up in Tully and Kate’s lives both professionally and personally over the years, the shifts from the 1980s to the 2000s meant a lot of changes in hair and make-up for his character. But keeping track of where they were in the story was less about the wigs and more about the above-and-beyond efforts of their script supervisor Danielle de Smit.
“She didn’t have to do this. It’s not part of her job,” he said. “But she charted all the scenes in order, in chronological order, over the episodes. So because we were jumping around so much, I’d often go to Video Village and say, ‘Okay. So where does this come? Is this before or after this happens?’ It was a little tricky at times, to stay on top of the chronology of it.”
Despite how much time is captured across the first 10 episodes of Season 1, there are still plenty of big mysteries left to explore in Season 2. The season finale, for example, features a massive cliffhanger regarding the ultimate fate of Johnny — who leaves for Iraq to be a war correspondent during the Iraq War, and is last seen under attack in the desert.
“We knew all season that we were working toward the cliffhanger with Johnny in Iraq. We had that on the board from Week 1,” Friedman said, but noted that because of the show’s structure, even if Johnny doesn’t survive the attack, Lawson would still be featured in the ’80s flashbacks — “so that’s why he’s not worried.”
Everyone has hopes for where the story could go from here: Curtis said that she wanted “a roaring teen party — there was kind of one in the second episode, a roaring teen 70s party, but it had a pretty sinister feel to it. So I would love a true 1970s house party. That’s my dream.”
Meanwhile, Skovbye said that for the ’70s version of Kate, “I want Kate to have a love story. I just think it’d be so cute and so cool if Kate had like a little awkward first encounter, a first date type feel with a boy and first relationship, and then Tully can kind of help her through and all that. I just think it’d be so cute. I think it needs to happen.”
Perhaps the biggest question left unresolved by Season 1, though, is not who died at the end (it’s revealed that the funeral first teased early in the season is being held for Kate’s father) — but why exactly Kate and Tully have had a massive falling out in these later years of their lives, with Kate refusing to talk to Tully.
Friedman wouldn’t reveal the details of her master plan, except to say that she does hope Netflix gives them the greenlight for a second season. “I’m hoping that we get multiple seasons, and you want to make sure that you’re doling it out in the right way for that,” she said.
Does that mean we’d learn in Season 2, what happened between Tully and Kate? Or would it happen later on, down the line? Heigl and Chalke weren’t able to say what the future might hold, though Heigl added that “I always assumed that it would be revealed in Season 2. But maybe not. Maybe it is something that you could really draw out.”
Added Chalke, “I like the words ‘Season 5.’ Those two things together sound really nice. There’s something about it.”
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