Firefly Lane’s Confusing Final Death Twist, Explained

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Firefly Lane season 1 finale “Auld Lang Syne.” 
Netflix's Firefly Lane is a story about best friends. But, like fellow time-hopping drama This Is Us, it’s also a show about tragedy — and television’s ability to tease out that tragedy over an entire season. Firefly Lane’s second episode, “Oh! Sweet Something,” is the first episode to signal death is ahead for heroines Kate Mularkey (Sarah Chalke) and Tully Hart (Katherine Heigl). The chapter ends with a two-year time jump. In the future, Kate and her teenage daughter Marah (Yael Yurman) look mournfully over the edge of their backyard while wearing outfits fit for a funeral. Both women appear to talk about Tully in the past tense. “I miss her,” Marah laments. “I miss her too,” Kate agrees. 
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We’re meant to assume Tully just might be dead. Over the remaining episodes, Firefly Lane suggests two more people in Kate’s life could also be dead: her ex-husband, Johnny Ryan (Ben Lawson), and her dad Bud (Paul McGillion). After finale “Auld Lang Syne,” which features more funeral details and a grim scene in Iraq, it’s time to sort through Firefly Lane’s most macabre mysteries. 

Who's dead in Firefly Lane?

Bud Mularkey is dead. The funeral flash-forwards throughout Firefly Lane, which take place two years after the “present” timeline of the series, are glimpses into the day of Bud’s funeral. This detail is specifically confirmed at the beginning of series finale “Auld Lang Syne.” In this time-jump cold open, we drop in on 2005 Kate as she smokes outside of a church. Kate’s brother Sean (Jason McKinnon) walks up, imitating their dad scolding her. They talk about their mom, Margie (Chelah Horsdal), being drunk, and Tully’s unexpected appearance at the funeral. With one conversation, Firefly Lane confirms Kate, Tully, Sean, and Margie are all alive. 
“Today’s about Dad,” Kate says. “I can’t believe Dad’s gone. It doesn’t seem real.” We aren’t informed of what caused Bud’s death, but we do know he had at least one heart attack during the '80s. We see the aftermath of Bud’s past heart attack unfold over the flashbacks in “Auld Lang Syne,” which is the same episode that confirms his 2005 death. That narrative decision may suggest the two events are connected. 
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.

Is Ben dead?

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It is purposefully unclear whether Ben is alive or dead at the end of Firefly Lane season 1. Towards the end of the “present day” portion of season 1 finale “Auld Lang Syne,” Johnny heads to Iraq to serve as a war correspondent. As Kate enjoys Christmas at home with her family — including Tully and her dad Bud — Johnny adjusts to life in Iraq. He writes a story called “Struggle to Survive Mosul” from a tent; Kate reads that same story, now in print, from their home in Seattle. 
Then, Johnny’s Iraq experience takes a turn for the dangerous. While walking in the desert with American troops, someone a few yards ahead of Johnny steps on a landmine, turning the scene into dirt-spewing carnage. The last time we see Johnny in the finale, he has been flung backwards and is splattered with blood. If you look closely, it’s possible Johnny has a bloody wound on his neck, but it’s unclear. Johnny could just as easily be covered in someone else’s viscera. A frequency usually deployed on TV to signify post-explosion shock plays, suggesting that if Johnny is alive, he's gravely injured. 
Firefly Lane ends the season with Johnny in limbo, as Kate, Tully, and Sean miss the phone ringing in the house. We’re meant to assume the call is from someone in Iraq informing the Mularkeys of Johnny’s accident and health status. While it’s unlikely Johnny died — he was two to three people behind the actual explosion — he is still noticeably absent from the 2005 flash-forward. This means Johnny may either still be recovering from his injuries two years later or he, like Tully (whom we’ll get to in a second), has betrayed Kate so deeply, he is not allowed at her father’s funeral. 
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No matter what Johnny’s fate is, we know the flash-forward funeral isn’t connected to Johnny’s 2003 accident for two reasons: It’s confirmed to belong to Bud and, even if it wasn’t, no one holds a funeral two full years after someone’s death. 
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.

Is Tully dead?

No, Tully isn’t dead. Tully is very much alive, despite the fact that Kate and Marah speak about her like she is deceased. The cliffhanger time jump in the seventh episode “Total Eclipse of the Heart” confirms as much, as we see Tully arrive at Bud’s 2005 funeral. The flash-forward — and all subsequent time jumps — reveal that Tully was seemingly cut out of Kate and Marah’s lives sometime between the end of 2003, which is when the “present day” events of season 1 take place, and 2005. Tully's relationship with Johhny — like all Johnny-related subjects in 2005 — is a mystery.
It is unclear what Tully did to cause the end of her friendship with Kate. All we know is that Kate has “punished” Tully over her perceived slight for some time and that Kate says she can “never forgive Tully for what she did,” as they say in their finale-ending exchange. Despite the fact that Tully’s heart is still technically beating, the loss of Kate probably feels like an emotionally fatal blow.

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