“Who is your best friend?”
This question always made me nervous as a kid. Today, I’ll talk to practically anyone and quickly proclaim a stranger a friend, but the young version of me was incredibly shy and reserved. I didn’t go looking for friends and depended on a neighbor or two, someone on the bus, or mostly my cousins. I was naïve and content in my immediate bubble when I compared myself to the girls around me, and I didn’t exactly navigate the transition into my teen years with particular grace. Essentially, I was Kate Mularkey in Netflix’s newest adaption of bestselling series from Kristin Hannah Firefly Lane. Trade out my 1990’s setting for Kate’s 1970’s, and there I am. Longing for something elusive and waiting for the answer to that question – who is my best friend?
For teenaged Kate (Roan Curtis), her world is rocked when the beautiful and tenacious Tully Hart (Ali Skovbye) moves in across the street with her eccentric and addicted mother Cloud (Beau Garrett). On the surface they couldn’t have been more different. Where Kate is reserved and (mostly) content, Tully is vibrant and rebellious. Each missing what the other has to offer, they begin the trek into adulthood and lifelong friendship while weathering the next two decades, each fighting to find herself while clinging to one another.
As Kate and Tully begin their careers in journalism (now played by Sarah Chalke and Katherine Heigl), their friendship is the rock of all they do. Tully pushes Kate into taking risks and going after what she wants and Kate is the anchor to Tully’s tumultuous emotions and often erratic behavior. Kate still strives to be all things to all people, and Tully relentlessly seeks to carve out her name on-camera. And as the threads weave in and out with their present-day and future lives, Firefly Lane paints a portrait of a bond that is as fragile as it is concrete. By the end of this first season, we see just how long this friendship has walked the tightrope between devotion and – dare I say it – toxicity.
I hesitate to use that word because it seems extreme. But then again, so is Kate and Tully’s relationship. Their identities are intwined in a way that crosses the boundaries of marriage, parenting, careers, and everything in between. And while I wasn’t really invested until about episode three (I’ve never read the original), Chalke’s and Heigl’s performances pulled me into that complexity with their embodiment of these characters. I love their friendship, but I’m incredibly wary of their friendship. I want them to always be together, but I want them to let go and step into their own lives apart from each other.
With the inclusion of Ben Lawson, Jon-Michael Ecker, Yael Yurman, Jason McKinnon, and Chelah Horsdal (to name a few), Firefly Lane creates a believable community that surrounds Kate and Tully’s tug of war for identity. Together they all navigate the hard-partying 80s, establish families and careers in the 90s, and face life-changing events in the years immediately following the attacks on September 11, 2001. We watch them mature, yes, but we also are watching them fall apart.
I asked a question at the very beginning: “who is your best friend?” But I want to ask a different one now: “what is a best friend?” Is it someone you’ve simply known forever? Is it someone who promises to make each birthday something special? Is it someone who will step to the side for years so that you can shine? Is it someone who curls up under a blanket with you as you cry through mid-life tragedy? Is it someone who forgives you over and over for years until they literally have nothing more to give? I’d like to think a best friend is a combination of all those things and then some, and I hope as Firefly Lane progresses, that Kate and Tully can start to answer that question as well.
Firefly Lane streams on Netflix on February 5th, 2021.