If you were hoping for even more American Hustle-level hair absurdity in the second season of Firefly Lane—Netflix’s decades-spanning soap starring Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke as longtime BFFs Tully Hart and Kate Mularkey—you’re in luck: The wigs are still insane.
The hammy hairpieces pop up periodically in the dramedy’s second and final season, a supersized release that will see nine new episodes hit the streamer on December 2, with a seven-episode back half to come in 2023. (A release date for the final batch of episodes has not yet been announced.)
Worn by the two leading ladies as well as their younger counterparts Ali Skovbye and Roan Curtis, who play the characters as teens, the ever-changing coifs are meant to signal the show’s frequent timeline shifts between different stages of Tully and Kate’s lives, from the ’70s grooviness of their youth to the padded-shoulder pluckiness of their early career ambitions in the 1980s to what the series considers the present day, with the friends as fortysomethings in the early aughts. (All of the ’dos from the first season are alive and, well, not well—we’re looking at you, Cloud—but young Kate’s new high-school bowl cut is a particularly unfortunate addition to the sophomore season.)
What all of that bad wiggery actually amounts to, however, is pure follicular distraction, repeatedly removing viewers from the focus of the story—in Firefly Lane’s case, many stories—by way of wayward weaves and goofy rugs. And the show’s hair and makeup department aren’t the only ones at fault for regularly pulling you out of the plot. The very framework of Firefly Lane compromises its structural soundness: Unlike the 2008 Kristin Hannah novel on which it’s based, which chronicles Kate and Tully’s lifelong friendship in a linear fashion, the streaming series jumps between eras à la This Is Us, a construction that was difficult to keep up with in season one and is downright dreadful in season two, the threaded timelines becoming even knottier and more headache-inducing as it weaves in the early ’90s and mid-2000s.
Season one teased a major rift to come between the emergency-contact-close buds in the “future” (a.k.a. 2005), a breakup whose painfulness in season two is tempered constantly by the fact that we inelegantly and immediately flip-flop from scenes of estrangement to ones of the duo in happier times: road trips and double dates and the feather-haired days of being roommates in the ’80s. We can’t feel the weight of their separation, the sheer sorrow of losing “your person,” as Heigl’s Grey’s Anatomy cohorts once put it, if we’re not allowed to sit with the grief for even two minutes.
All of the pivotal moments and big questions of season two—will Johnny survive that IED attack in Iraq? Will Tully finally track down her birth father? And what event could possibly drive Kate and Tully apart after all these years?—are treated as fleetingly and flippantly as sillier, lower-stakes scenes, like sitcom-y bits involving the teenage pals hiding a “dead” body or twentysomething Kate burning her butt cheeks during a fake-tan treatment. (You can almost hear the canned laughter in the background.) With viewers being constantly tasked with the switching of tone as well as time periods, it softens any emotional wallop the drama could have had. And in patching together Beaches-lite melodrama, newsroom comedy, coming-of-age high-school hijinks, and, least successful of all, cliffhanger-heavy mystery, Firefly Lane’s second season is less a genre hybrid than a Frankenstein-like creation built for the “Live Laugh Love” set.
It’s a shame because Heigl and Chalke do good work in those messier, tense scenes between Tully and Kate, the former hollowed out by the confusion of sudden loss and the latter simmering in rage and resentment. Rom-com veteran Heigl (27 Dresses, The Ugly Truth) has always seemed sharper than the work she’s been given and unfortunately Firefly Lane season two is much of the same, despite the actress gamely taking on the show’s dull handling of edgier, real-deal issues like workplace misogyny, childhood trauma, and abandonment. (She is also an executive producer on the series.) Chalke is even less lucky in the second season, hindered by a will-they-of-course-they-will romantic storyline with Kate’s ex-husband Johnny Ryan (Ben Lawson) that’s devoid of any real heart or heat.
It’s also a shame, though much less to the fault of the Firefly Lane cast and crew, that an even better rumination on female friendship, forgiveness, and the grasp of grief came out on the same streaming platform just a few weeks prior, in the form of Dead to Me’s third and final season. Like that Christina Applegate-Linda Cardellini vehicle, Firefly Lane’s last season deals with the trials and tribulations of an odd-couple pair, from shocking medical diagnoses to guy problems and even a car-crash mystery, but without the clear-cut trajectory that allows for similar growth and grace in its own sisterly soulmates. Firefly Lane may bill itself as comfort viewing, but there’s no catharsis to be found here.
Despite all of the decades, it seems as though Firefly Lane hasn’t learned much over the years. As dependable as an old friend, all of the stuff that was wrong with season one is still wrong with it this time down the road—and, yes, especially the hair.
Part one of Firefly Lane season two premieres December 2 on Netflix.