The Ending Of Firefly Lane Season 2 Explained

Based on the novel by Kristin Hannah, Netflix's "Firefly Lane" has clocked its final episode, but this charming story about a friendship that lasts a lifetime lives on in our hearts. Through an impressive 26-episode run that adapts the first novel surprisingly faithfully, this series introduces us to the bold Tully Hart and the comparatively introverted Kate Mularkey who meet as teens and stay friends into their 40s. Starting in the 1970s and leading into the early 2000s, the different directions that Tully and Kate take threaten to tear their friendship apart, but the lessons they learn from one another only pull them closer in the end.

From the beginning, it's pretty clear that despite major differences in personality and one pretty serious friendship breakup along the way, the effortless connection between Tully and Kate will ultimately overcome time and distance. What we couldn't have seen coming is how that all plays out, with the final season's twists sometimes coming as a surprise even for those who read the book. Though this adaptation has drawn to a close for now, it isn't without a few bumps and bruises for the cast of characters we grew to know and love. As for how it all wraps up, the series remains a pretty faithful adaptation of the book to the end, but that doesn't mean there aren't surprises in store.

What you need to remember about the plot of Firefly Lane

After introducing us to everything that makes the friendship between the "Firefly Lane" girls so great, Season 1 ends on the cliffhanger that, by 2005, Kate is so angry with Tully that she tells her to leave her father's funeral. In flashbacks throughout the first 10 episodes, we see their friendship spring up seemingly out of nowhere with the cool Tully befriending the awkward Kate. In the 1970s, Tully's mother Cloud struggles with addiction issues, forcing Tully to grow up too soon. Luckily, her friendship with Kate serves as a safe zone from her unstable home life. In the 2000s, she and Cloud ultimately reconcile, but it's not a smooth reunion as a particularly unscrupulous reporter uses the rift between them to hurt Tully via an exposé.

Kate and Tully start out their careers working together at a local news station, and Kate falls in love with their boss, Johnny. Though the two eventually divorce after the birth of their daughter Marah, their relationship continues to be on-and-off. Meanwhile, Tully marries a one-night stand, has a miscarriage, and is divorced in a whirlwind series of events. In the 1970s, we look back at the past to see Cloud arrested for selling drugs, leaving Kate bereft as her best friend is forced to leave Firefly Lane and move in with her grandmother. In the present, Kate tells Tully she'll never forgive her, leaving us to wonder what went awry with this beautiful friendship.

What happened in Season 2

For the first half of Season 2, the series delves into why Kate and Tully stop being friends. Diving into Kate and Johnny's rocky relationship and Tully's life after quitting her successful show "The Girlfriend Hour," Season 2 shows the differences between them that have always been a factor growing into seemingly insurmountable obstacles. For Kate's part, most of this first segment of the season revolves around her eventual reconciliation with Johnny despite her misgivings, as well as the devastating loss of her father. Kate's daughter Marah is outed as queer, reflecting Kate's brother Sean's struggle with coming out in less accepting times.

Meanwhile, Tully is able to solve the convoluted mystery of who her father is despite her mother's protests, and she's able to make a successful documentary about the journey of tracking down this decades-old mystery. When Tully agrees to watch over Marah for the weekend while Kate and Johnny spend time alone, she allows Marah to go to a party despite her mother's misgivings. Later, when Marah is alone at a party and worried about getting home safely, Tully drops everything to pick her up. She has a car accident while under the influence with Marah in the car, and when Kate and Johnny realize this, they refuse to speak to her. When Kate accepts Johnny's proposal to get married again, and is promptly diagnosed with breast cancer, she realizes she needs her friend and attempts to track Tully down only to discover she's left to shoot a documentary in Antarctica.

Tully and Kate's (kind of) happy ending

The latter half of Season 2 of "Firefly Lane" is all about the bittersweet reconciliation between Tully and Kate. We see Kate struggle with the breast cancer diagnosis that eventually ends her life. While Kate goes through a breakup with Theo right before their wedding is set to take place due to a passionate hookup with Johnny, she is able to reconcile with Johnny, who is there with her up to the end. Meanwhile, after realizing how much she misses and needs Tully, Kate is hurt to see that her attempts to reach out are ignored. When Tully finally gets cell service again, she rushes to her friend's side, and is with her throughout the many attempts at treatment.

Meanwhile, Tully's career is in a great place, but her personal life is mostly dedicated to supporting Kate during the rollercoaster of her diagnosis, brief remission, and eventual death. Though her relationship with Danny is ostensibly over, the two of them remain friends. When Danny's girlfriend Celeste eventually breaks up with him, it seems like a perfect opportunity to reconcile with Tully, but she's too upset about Kate to engage with him. When he tells her he's going to leave, she asks him to stay, and we see that they're still together and a time jump shows them attending Marah's wedding 10 years down the line. Kate is no longer with them physically, but she left this world knowing how loved she was, and everyone continues to be impacted by her memory.

The significance of the final time jump

We begin the finale in the unenviable place of Tully discovering that Kate's cancer has spread to her brain, disqualifying her for further treatment. While Tully is ready to keep fighting for a better diagnosis, Kate insists that, at this point, all she wants is to go home and be with the people she loves. There, we discover that she has finally completed a book written to celebrate the many twists and turns of her life. As Tully explains her somewhat complicated reconciliation with Danny, she pauses to refill her tea, only to then realize that Kate has passed gently away. Though Tully is unable to face the reality of Kate's funeral, she is given a small time capsule that includes an iPod playlist with ABBA's "Dancing Queen," and the show flashes back to the two of them dancing together as teens.

The timeline then skips ahead 10 years, where we see Johnny decked out in a tuxedo and realize that Marah is getting married. As we saw earlier, despite their occasionally difficult relationship, Kate assures Marah that she surpassed her in every way and that she couldn't be prouder. This flashforward tells us that Tully has stepped up for Marah and then some in Kate's absence. It also shows us that, while Tully ends up with Danny, her relationship with Kate and her career accomplishments have given her the peace she needs. By showing us that life goes on, the series only drives home how meaningful our connections to our loved ones truly are, as Tully closes out the series dancing along to "Dancing Queen."

Marah's wedding

One of the strongest themes of "Firefly Lane" is healing from the things that cause us pain by learning to see things through another person's eyes. Nowhere is that truer than with Kate and Marah's complicated mother-daughter relationship. A troubled teen who seems hopelessly at odds with her mother while admiring Tully's comparatively free spirit, Marah's story plays a small but vital role to the finale. In Season 2, Episode 1, Kate discovers that Marah isn't straight by reading emails and discovering her attachment to her "friend" Ashley, but even with her once-closeted brother Sean's advice to foster a safe space for Marah to come out in, Kate's heavy-handed approach doesn't quite hit the mark.

With Kate's awkward excess of acceptance before Marah is ready to talk it out, it's fairly clear why both Marah and Kate's brother Sean tell Tully about their sexuality well before they let Kate in on that information. Still, even having somewhat fumbled the landing, Kate's support of Marah is clear, and it only increases with time. Marah's wedding in the flashforward is meaningful in no small part because of her struggles as a teenager; it shows that she overcomes the temporary heartache of losing Ashley and moves on to a happier relationship. Tully is with her, and so is her father, with Kate's memory giving them all the strength to continue growing.

What has the cast and crew of Firefly Lane said about the ending?

It's true that the source material for "Firefly Lane" gave the cast a lot to work with for developing rich and complex characters, but there is no overselling the incredible chemistry between the leads, Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke. In an interview with Forbes around the finale, the two expressed sincere appreciation for each other, with Chalke noting that Heigl's presence "made all of those scenes doable. It was physically and emotionally exhausting. Because cancer and death have touched everyone, I hope we dealt with it in a way that rings true to people, and that feels good for them to watch."

Heigl confirmed this, noting that, "It was hard to stop the emotion because not every scene is supposed to be a weeping, sobbing, grief-stricken scene, but it was always right there at the forefront. There's just something about these two women, this particular story, Sarah as a human being, and my love for the characters. It felt weirdly real." As for how the series decided on that devastating ending, according to showrunner Maggie Friedman in conversation with The Wrap, "We talked a lot about a lot of different versions in the writers' room of how exactly the moment of [Kate's] death was going to play out, and what we finally landed on was this idea that Kate was hanging on until she knew that everyone was going to be okay."

What changes were made between the book and show?

"Firefly Lane" is a surprisingly faithful adaptation of the novel it's based on. Having long resisted TV and film takes on her work, Kristin Hannah herself has noted that witnessing Chalke and Heigl reading for the parts convinced her that this series was going to be a top-notch rendition. Still, the nature of adaptation necessitated a few changes to the source material. The first is the reason for Tully and Kate's falling out. In the book, Tully invites Kate and Marah on "The Girlfriend Hour" to sort out their rocky relationship, but surprises Kate by also inviting a child psychologist who publicly dismisses Kate as a bad mom.

Meanwhile, there are a few changes that simply give more context to the friendship between Kate and Tully. For instance, Tully never stops hosting "The Girlfriend Hour" in the book, and she even does an episode on breast cancer awareness after Kate's diagnosis. Meanwhile, Kate's cancer never goes into remission, which was a choice made by the series to allow Kate to spend more time with her loved ones on the screen. In the book, Johnny and Kate never remarry because they never get divorced to begin with, while Tully never reconciles with Cloud because Cloud flat out doesn't seem particularly interested in developing a closer bond with her daughter. These changes differentiate the show from the book, allowing the two entities to stand alone as their own things while sharing a vibe.

On keeping the original ending intact

While the series was free to go in any number of directions with the ending, showrunner Maggie Friedman insisted that keeping in line with the conclusion of the first book was the way to go, right down to the choice of song used in the finale. In an interview with The Wrap, she explained, "I thought it was such a beautiful ending. I love 'Dancing Queen.' It was so great that we were able to get the rights to use it and we use it multiple times in that last episode." 

Continuing to discuss closing out Tully and Kate's story in the best possible way, she said, "And then in that moment, you know, Tully goes inside, it's Kate's last moment to assess her life and communing with nature and just have appreciation for who she is and where she's been and where she is at this moment." Friedman maintains that the connection between Tully and Kate is the MVP of the series, but that they reach a point of catharsis by the end. "There was something about the way that the book ended, that you know it feels free to just stay true to that and come full circle. And to see that totally. We know that it's so sad, but [Kate's] going to be with [Tully] always." She adds, "Now she finally has grown in a way where she could be having an emotionally intimate relationship with somebody besides Kate. It gave [Kate] the freedom to let go.

Kristin Hannah on the diagnosis that inspired the book

Kristin Hannah has made no bones about the personal nature of "Firefly Lane," citing it as her most personal work. In a recent interview with The Wrap, she opened up about the role that breast cancer plays in this story by discussing her mother's diagnosis and cluing us into the themes of the novel overall. "Well, obviously it was the reason that I wrote the book," said Hannah. "I hit 40, and my son started needing me a little less. I'd been home a lot. I just suddenly went through one of those waves where I missed my mom. Which I think is a classic grieving process for your mother; it comes and goes. At 40, I just felt this driving need to get to know her again, and there was no way to do that within my family."

"I went in search for her the way I go in search of everything; I write about it," Hannah continued. "So in this piece, I am at different times Marah — I'm certainly the rebellious Marah. But I'm also Kate going through this and trying to see our life through her eyes." This sense of seeking a greater understanding for our loved ones continues in the sequel, "Fly Away." Hannah noted that, "I did not realize this, but I began the book at exactly the age she was when she was diagnosed, and I finished the book at the age she was when she passed away. So I really felt she was on this journey with me."

What the end of Firefly Lane means

When "Firefly Lane" was renewed for a second season, the announcement was bittersweet due to the fact that Netflix announced that it would also be the show's final season. However, at 16 episodes, Season 2 is longer than Season 1, which helps to smooth the disappointment a bit. Naturally, fans are asking if the story will continue, although there are currently no plans. From what we know at present, this is the end of this particular "Firefly Lane" adaptation, but it's important to keep in mind that the book received its own sequel with "Fly Away," which delves into the ramifications Kate's death has on the lives of the people who loved her.

In fact, Kristin Hannah mentioned in an interview with No Apology Book Reviews that there may be more books on the way, saying, "I had originally seen Firefly Lane as the start of a trilogy. So, I will never say never about writing a third book." While there has been little buzz around a follow-up as fans digest that heartbreaking final season, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Tully's story may yet continue someday, with her memories of Kate fleshing out their friendship even further. For now, that lengthy final season is nothing to scoff at, and the creative team was given space to go out on its own terms, which feels like a win.