Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Over the years, Netflix have been steadily growing their choice of premium soap operas. From the gorgeously shot Virgin River to syrupy Sweet Magnolias, there’s undoubtedly a growing demographic for this sort of show. It perhaps was only a matter of time before best-selling Firefly Lane received a Netflix adaptation.
In its simplest form, Firefly Lane’s story plays into those conventional beach read romances, mixed with a dollop of tropey Hallmark movies.
Here though, our tale revolves about 2 women, split across 3 decades with 1 undeniably close-knit bond. From high school to adulthood, Firefly Lane follows these two characters as they experience all the highs and lows life brings along the way.
All the foundations are there for another guilty pleasure binge. Unfortunately, Firefly Lane completely sabotages itself with an unnecessary non-linear narrative.
Taking key moments from each decade and weaving them together with a loose theme, the pacing and tone of Firefly Lane is completely lost in a mishmash of different melodramatic and strangely comedic segments.
Our story jumps between three decades sporadically, beginning in 1970 with a young Tully Hart whisked away from her Grandmother by her estranged, drug-addicted mother Cloud. As the pair move to Firefly Lane, Tully befriends her neighbour Kate Mularkey and form a bond that lasts for 30 years.
Cut in the middle of this though is another timeline depicting the 1980’s as Kate and Tully attend college and begin working at a news broadcast station. There, they meet their boss Johnny, who spills over into the third timeline too.
This takes place in present day America (or 2003) with brief cuts to 2005 teasing a major plot point that’s not fully revealed until the final episode. Thanks to the non-linear structure, this is the only bit of mystery in the show.
In a chronological order, these timelines would actually work quite well but the format here completely betrays the book’s narrative and worse, cheapens a lot of the more dramatic moments.
When Kate and Tully fight in 1980, we’re left to wonder if they’ll be okay… before jumping to 2003 and seeing them all smiles and hugs. Other times we’re told about events before actually seeing them played out on-screen, as characters in 2003 reminisce on moments in 1980…before the scene cuts and shows this to us.
Much like CBS’s hacked up version of Stephen King’s The Stand, this “stylish” attempt at re-editing a story out of sequence causes both the 197- and 1980 timelines to be completely redundant.
It’s a shame too and even worse, the most interesting timeline is actually that of the 70’s but it’s also the one with the least amount of screen-time.
Instead, what we get is a premium soap with stagnated bites of romance between men we know don’t stick around or fights breaking out that we know will resolve themselves 10 years later – or in some occasions within the next episode.
To make matters worse, all three timelines end with cliffhangers at episode 10, teasing a second season that may or may not arrive.
Visually, the show is a bit of a mixed bag too. The yellow dreamy hue hanging over the 70’s works quite well while the heavy makeup and strange mishmash of slapstick and sombre wartime journalism really doesn’t work as well as it perhaps should.
Some of the issue here comes from using the same actors in the 80s as the 2013 timeline, with thick layers of makeup and an over-the-top wardrobe to try and make both actresses younger. To be fair, it does work reasonably well but it’s a little puzzling why they didn’t just use different actresses.
The result then is a show that so easily could have been another compelling premium soap but falls apart in the editing room.
As a linear watch this could have had potential, especially given the excellency chemistry between the leads, but told out order this feels like a disjointed scrabble of scenes stitched together to try and be clever.
Lovers of the book will undoubtedly be turned away by the structure while casual fans may or may not take to the style. Firefly Lane is unlikely to shine bright, instead dimming out and flat-lining across its 10 episodes into forgettable mediocrity.
Firefly Lane drops on Netflix worldwide on 3rd February 2021!