The time has come for another beloved TV family to depart the airwaves and become a benchmark in pop culture history. Tonight, we said goodbye to the quirky and heartwarming antics of the Hecks from The Middle. Created by Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline, the nine seasons of the popular ABC family sitcom came to an end with a two-part finale appropriately titled “A Heck of a Ride.”
The big finale starts in the dark — yes the dark. Axl (Charlie McDermott) enters Frankie (Patricia Heaton) and Mike’s (Neil Flynn) room as they are asleep and makes the announcement that he has decided to take the job in Denver. After his announcement, there is a silence between the parents until Frankie starts to comedically sob and finds comfort in the cookies she keeps bedside — cookies that Mike also partakes in.
Axl’s decision to leave the nest to start a new chapter in his life sets the tone for the series finale. As he says goodbye to his family, we say goodbye to them and the show. Sad, I know, but all good things must come to an end. That said, the episode is a quintessential “goodbye” episode which delivers all the feels. The audience, who has essentially lived with the Hecks for nine years, has grown to love them so much that it is as if they are part of the family. In turn, the show’s ending, like every beloved TV family sitcom finale, lovingly rips your heart out and leaves you reaching for the tissues.
When Axl breaks the news to his siblings Sue (Eden Sher) and Brick (Atticus Shaffer), the reactions are very different. True to Sue form, she is excited and hysterical because she is excited to share a special goodbye moment with him before he leaves. As for Brick, he immediately starts taking measurements of their room for remodeling. So we know where he stands when it comes to Axl’s departure.
As they prepare for his farewell, Axl thinks he has 30 days to tie up loose ends. That is PLENTY of time. But then, Mike reads his job offer. Because Axl seems to have trouble with months and their corresponding numbers, it turns out that he doesn’t have 30 days until his job starts — but 4 days. Yes, FOUR days.
Axl begins to fit 30 days of prep into 4. All the while, Frankie tries to play it cool when it comes to Axl leaving home. She doesn’t want to seem clingy so she tries to be easy breezy. But based on the opening scene, we know that she is just pushing all those feelings of grief down. It’s only a matter of time before they come bubbling up to reach a tearful boiling point — don’t worry we’ll get there.
Meanwhile, Axl comes and talks to Sue and she thinks they are going to have their special moment, but instead, Axl is worried about Brick not being devasted enough about him moving out. Sue is upset at this because she is hellbent on having that special goodbye moment.
After learning that he will have a company car in Denver, the family is set to take Axl to Denver. Because of that, he holds a game between Sue and Brick where the winner gets his old car. Sue wins and Brick is a little upset. Later, Axl finds him in the car and that is when the two of them have a heart-to-heart. Brick admits that it will be hard to not have him not around anymore and in his own special way he says, “I will miss you.”
Enter Sue to break up the Hallmark moment with her delightful sibling hysteria. She, of course, gets upset because Brick got his “moment” with Axl before her. This leads to a very touching scene — in its own Middle sort of way — between the siblings.
As the family gets ready for the big Denver road trip, Brick and Sue argue over who is going to get the middle seat and Frankie is still playing it cool — until Mike gives Axl a special engraved watch as a going away gift. When Frankie sees this, she is immediately jealous and yells at Mike for having a heartfelt moment while she is playing it cool. At this point, her emotional goodbye is inevitable — as is the audience’s.
In the final moments of the show, Sean (Beau Wirick) comes back into the picture in a shoehorned, yet welcome side story. As he is about to get on the plane to Ghana, he gets stopped by security because they find a snow globe in his carry on. It’s from Sue and he realizes he wants to be with her — and you can guess what happens after that. He goes after her while she is on the family road trip to Denver. He catches up with them and one thing leads to another and Sue and Sean end up together… even though he’ll be gone for a couple of months. See what I mean? It was shoehorned…but sweet.
While in the car, Frankie has a breakthrough moment and let her feelings loose as they argue over the family cell phone plan.
The Middle finale brings to mind the series finale of another iconic TV family: the Keatons on Family Ties. Like The Middle, it was a two-part finale and like The Middle, it featured the eldest child, Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) leaving the nest to his dream job in New York. Everyone has a moment with him before he leaves and like Brick, the siblings are taking measurements of his room to remodel. But it’s his mom Elise (Meredith Baxter) who, like Frankie, tries to avoid the fact that he’s leaving. And in the end, she accepts it with a whole lotta emotion. This type of finale, although formulaic, works as it hits all the right notes because saying goodbye to family is never not emotional. But if you hate your family, then that is a totally different story.
As the family pulls over to let Frankie have her breakdown, the Hecks, as they always do, comfort each other. They wipe the tears away and Frankie says, “It’s the end of an era — it’s never gonna be the same again.” Mike assures, “That’s the way it’s supposed to be.” Both sentiments can speak for the family as well as the show.
But wait…there’s more!
In the show’s epilogue, Frankie gives us an update on the future of the Hecks. We see Axl as a grown working man with three boys exactly like him: demanding and kind of lazy. Brick has created a wildly successful book series that features the adventures of a kid who gets sucked into a magical microfiche machine. And after an off and on relationship with Sean, Sue finally marries him. As for Frankie and Mike, they never won the lottery or fixed all the things falling apart in their house. It ends with Frankie saying, “For all the things we didn’t have, we sure had a lot.” With that we see the Hecks drive off into the sunset.