The Ending of 'Firefly Lane,' Explained

We! Need! Answers!

Spoilers for Firefly Lane. So you finished season one of Firefly Lane, the coming-of-age Netflix series starring Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke (opens in new tab) and based on the novel by Kristin Hannah, and you have questions. Like: Is Johnny dead? Will Tully go back to The Girlfriend Hour? And, most importantly: What on God's green earth did Tully do (opens in new tab) to blow up her decades-long friendship with Kate, not to mention her godmother-ship of Marah?

Well, welcome to the club! The first season ends on a major cliffhanger—for Johnny, for Tully, for all the characters we've come to love (and whose wigs we despair of (opens in new tab)). Johnny falls victim to an IED while reporting in Iraq; the series ends with him lying on his back, injured, though it's not clear how badly. Tully quits The Girlfriend Hour in protest of her predatory and controlling boss, and asks Kate to start a new show with her. And most alarmingly, we get a flash-forward to the present day, two years afterwards, where Tully and Kate are no longer friends. What?

Kristin Hannah's books (yes, there's a sequel (opens in new tab)) provide some potential answers. Here, we break down the ending of Firefly Lane, and what could be in store for season two.

What did Tully do to Kate?

By far the most alarming plot twist (sorry, Johnny; sorry, Bud) was the revelation that Kate and Tully's friendship had imploded. I mean, these two had been best friends, closer than sisters, for three decades. But in the flash-forward at Bud's funeral, Tully shows up and Kate is furious. "No one wants you here," Kate says.

"Don't you think you've punished me enough?" Tully asks.

Kate replies, "When I said that I could never forgive you for what you did, what did you think that meant?" She adds: "Go home. Now. I don't ever want to see you again."

This is, to put it mildly, jarring as hell, given that we've just spent ten episodes watching the evolution of a friendship so unbreakable that nothing—not men, not family, not their very different lives—can come between them. But by the time Bud dies, two years later, Tully has done something so unforgivable that Kate believes there is no repairing their relationship.

This is where Firefly Lane the book comes in handy. Now, Hannah's book differs quite sharply from the series—for example, Johnny and Kate are never on the cusp of divorce—so this specific plot point may not be reflected in the series. But in the book, Tully and Kate fall out over a humiliating incident: Tully brings Kate and Marah onto her show, The Girlfriend Hour, under the pretense of repairing their fraught relationship. But the segment turns out to be about overprotective mothers and the way they damage their children, and Kate is horrified to be lambasted as a bad parent on national TV—by her best friend, no less.

Is this why Kate and Tully have fallen out in the series? Well, we'll have to wait for season two, should it happen, to find out. It's worth noting that Tully quits The Girlfriend Hour in season one before any betrayal takes place, deciding to team up with Kate on a new series of their own—but that doesn't mean that she can't betray Kate in some way on their new show. Ben Lawson, who plays Johnny, told HollywoodLife (opens in new tab): "I think if my assumption is correct, [the reason Kate and Tully fall out is] going to be about Marah. I think that’s probably it."

Did Johnny die in Iraq?

The final episode also shows Johnny being injured, potentially very badly, in an explosion in Iraq. Johnny also isn't present for the "two years later" flash-forward, which is ominous. However: Given that Johnny and Kate were going through divorce proceedings for most of the series, it wouldn't be crazy if they came to Bud's funeral separately, assuming that Johnny was still alive—so that might explain why Johnny, should he survive, wasn't in the flash-forward.

In the book, Johnny does not die. Lawson joked to HollywoodLife: "If they were to follow the story of the book, then you know Johnny’s going to live to fight another day." But, a twist (yes, another one): Showrunner Maggie Friedman told Collider  (opens in new tab)that even if Lawson did die, Johnny would still be in the show's flashback scenes—"so that's why [Lawson is] not worried."

However, one main character does die in the book that doesn't in the Netflix series—and it's Kate, who passes away from late-stage cancer. Because it would be near-impossible to do a season two, or any more seasons, without both Kate and Tully present, the series opts not to include that storyline. Showrunner Maggie Friedman explained to EW: (opens in new tab) "One of the things I think that's been fun is that we have kept some big moments from the book and been very true to those, and then there are other things that we've done that are different."

That said. Firefly Lane could go on just fine without Johnny (I said what I said!), who is more crucial to Kate and Tully's early life than the later stages. Not to mention, the sequel to Firefly Lane the book (opens in new tab) is all about Tully and Marah and Johnny's grief after Kate's passing—so if the second season is loosely based on that book, it's possible that Kate's death would be swapped out for Johnny's.

What else would a second season have? Well, more flashbacks, for one. Friedman said to EW: "I think there are a lot more stories to tell, if we're lucky enough to have a season two, of those girls going through high school and what that's like." And—spoiler alert for the book sequel—Tully gets into a terrible, life-threatening accident in Fly Away, the sequel to Firefly Lane, so it's possible that would be written in as well.


Tully & Kate in Firefly Lane

Jenny Hollander
Director of Content Strategy

Jenny is the Director of Content Strategy at Marie Claire. Originally from London, she moved to New York in 2012 to attend the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and never left. Prior to Marie Claire, she spent five years at Bustle building out its news and politics coverage. She loves, in order: her dog, goldfish crackers, and arguing about why umbrellas are fundamentally useless. Her first novel, EVERYONE WHO CAN FORGIVE ME IS DEAD, will be published by Minotaur Books in 2024.