The Middle (S09E23 & S09E24) “A Heck Of A Ride” (Series Finale)

Well, that’s it. The Middle finished its 9 season run with a fantastic series finale. I don’t even know where to start writing and what to say without bursting into tears. But I got some of Frankie’s nightstand cookies to help me through it, so I’m just going to try. Brace yourselves though, it’s a long one because there is just so much to say.

The series finale starts where the penultimate episode of The Middle ended. Axl informs his parents about his decision to take the job in Denver. Frankie is devastated and needs to be comforted by Mike and her nightstand cookies. They seem to be making her feel better because the next morning, to all surprise of Mike and Axl, she is doing fine. With one more month to prepare for his departure, they still have plenty of time to say goodbye.

After already having a hard time sharing the news with his parents, Axl also has to make sure to tell Sue and Brick that he’ll be moving to Denver. When he does, both siblings have a very different reaction. Sue breaks down in tears (you can mark that part as the first of many times I bawled my eyes out during this episode) hoping they’ll at least have one more sentimental moment before he leaves. While Brick starts preparing for a life without Axl, by measuring their room to see how much space he’ll have for a reading lounge. Later he even brings in one of the library’s bookshelves, that will probably forever be stuck in brothers’ bedroom doorway. I guess that hole in the wall comes in handy now…

The plans the Hecks have before Axl’s departure suddenly have to change when Mike finds out, in a hilarious scene, that Axl messed up the month. Instead of leaving in June, his first day of work is in May, giving him only 4 more days to prepare, pack and say goodbye.

As a family on a budget, the Hecks can’t spring for new luggage, so instead they search for good boxes to use for all of Axl’s stuff. In a scene that lets us say goodbye to the Heck’s most frequented grocery store, the Frugal Hoosier, Frankie explains to Mike that she is not doing as great as it looks. But she has to pretend to be cool, to make sure Axl will come back to Orson to visit the family.

Axl still doesn’t know what to do about his siblings’ mixed reactions to his departure. So he decides to play a game to determine who will get his car, now that he will get a company car at the new job. In the game, Axl brings up some awesome memories of the past, with some nice callbacks to Frankie’s bruise, Axl’s favorite sandwich and Battlebogglopoly. But in the end it turns out to be a setup. Nobody wins the car, but Axl gives it to Sue as a belated 21st birthday gift. Sue is very happy about this, but because Axl doesn’t want to get all emotional about it, it still doesn’t count as the sentimental moment that Sue is waiting for. She doesn’t have to wait for this moment much longer though.

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Instead of being in the same room as his departing brother, Brick would rather spend Axl’s last night in Orson in the car to secure his window seat on their trip to Denver. Axl joins him in the car and Brick explains why he doesn’t seem to be sad. He has never really had the experience of living without anything that will remind him of Axl and tries to figure out how to do that, now that the time is there. “I don’t know, you’re like my arm or something. Like having to suddenly learn to write with your left hand.” After clearing up to Axl that this means he’ll miss him, Axl appropriately responds “I feel the arm thing about you too”.

This nice moment between the two brothers is disturbed by Sue, who’s afraid she’s missing out on her moment. Sue is disappointed and wonders why Axl wouldn’t just give her a moment like that, listing many of their memories together. After hearing all this Axl eventually tells her that he’ll miss her a lot, but that he just has a hard time telling her that. And Sue finally has her moment, followed by the very last seconds of just the three siblings on screen together as they fall asleep in the car.

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And then the day is finally there: Axl is leaving for Denver. As a sendoff, Mike gives Axl his dad’s old watch, with the latitude and longitude of the house engraved on the back so he’ll always remember where he came from. Axl is very moved by the gesture, but when Frankie finds out Mike got him something on his own, she gets mad: “Where was this gift-giving skill during inflatable foot bath season?!”. It seems like Frankie has a hard time keeping up with the ‘cool mom’ attitude, but instead of sharing her feelings, she lashes out at Mike. Of course this is a very typical reaction for Frankie, something we’ve seen more than once over the past 9 years, so Mike just shrugs it off, like he always does.

After Axl says goodbye to the house in a very emotional few seconds, the whole neighborhood is there to say goodbye to him as well. The Donahues, Bill Norwood, and of course Lexie and Brad. But the most surprising goodbye of all is Weird Ashley who popped up and had a fantastic and hilarious final appearance. After saying his goodbyes, the Hecks, and the new blue bag, finally get in the car. And of course, as they drive off the Heck kids start fighting right away for old times’ sake.

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Like a lot of other car scenes on The Middle, this road trip was filled with hilarious moments. Frankie continues her fight with Mike over the watch and as a result ends up buying peaches for Axl because he loves them so much. However, the peaches attract a lot of bees and throw the whole car into chaos. When the peace in the car is restored, the Hecks talk about other familiar car scene topics like Axl freezing Sue’s head and of course the death napkin.

But one of the most important parts of the car trip is when Sean suddenly appears. He got stopped at the airport because of the snow globe in his bag. So Sean goes after the Heck family and eventually catches up to them to confess his feelings for Sue, and asks her what the snow globe means to her. She answers him with a kiss, finally ending this storyline in the most perfect way ever. The snow globe eventually breaks, but it doesn’t matter anymore because “it did what it was supposed to do, it brought us to each other”. I really love the family’s reaction in the back, with Frankie taking photos and Axl putting his hands in front of his eyes. It perfectly sums up their characters.

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Anyway, now that Sean and Sue are FINALLY a thing, the Hecks can continue their trip to Denver. As the family is on their way, they have almost gone through their internet data for the month. When Axl tells his parents to just take him off the family plan, as he won’t really be part of the family anymore, Frankie finally has her breakdown. She gets out of the car and storms off telling the family she can’t drive her son to the other side of the country, using the family plan minutes as a metaphor for life: “You have to appreciate the minutes before they run out”. Frankie realizes that this will be the last time that they will be together like this as a family and bursts out in tears on the side of the road. She perfectly describes how she is feeling right now: “It’s the end of an era, it’s never gonna be the same again”. But Mike’s response may be even more perfect: “That’s the way it’s supposed to be”. As the Hecks reflect on their own lives, I think the actors and writers and fans of the show can relate to these lines as well. It really is the end of an era, after 9 years on TV, but on the other hand it is how it’s supposed to be. All good things must come to an end.

After the family shares a group hug, and everybody promises to stay on the family plan forever, they get back in the car, and once again forget the blue bag. And to finish off the story of the Hecks we get a small peak into the future. Axl eventually moves back to Orson and is the dad of three boys who are just like him, giving Frankie and Mike the perfect revenge. Brick becomes an author of a book series based on his own life. And Sue, she ends up marrying Sean, in a perfect ceremony, officiated by Reverend Tim Tom, surrounded by family and friends.

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And Mike and Frankie never win the lottery, but they continue to live their lives, with crappy wallpaper, a hole in the wall and a broken washing machine. But as Frankie narrates “For all the things we didn’t have, we sure had a lot”. And as the family drives off into the sunset, with a plane flying over the middle like in the pilot episode, you know that life goes on and everything is going to be okay.

And with that The Middle ended its perfect run with a perfect finale. This is one of my favorite series finales ever, and definitely one of my favorite The Middle episodes ever. It was everything I wanted the finale to be. Hilarious, heartbreaking, fitting and just a satisfying ending to this show I love so very much (here you can read why).

I loved how the whole Heck family got their moment to shine and the cast took these opportunities and just did the most amazing things with it.

  • Brick in his scene with Axl, where we can see that besides the dry humor Atticus Shaffer can bring to the screen, he can also bring emotion.

  • Sue in her scene with Sean, where Eden Sher got the chance to once more showcase one of the most optimistic characters on television.

  • Axl in practically every scene he was in, where Charlie McDermott showed us how much he has grown as an actor and how amazing he is.

  • Mike in his scene with Axl, where Neil Flynn reminded us once more why the character of Mike is so special.

  • And of course Frankie when she finally breaks down, which is weirdly enough one of the things I love seeing Patricia Heaton do the most because she’s just so damn good at it.

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The finale was not bigger than or different from any other episode of The Middle. It was very true to the show’s roots and it all made sense in the end, even ending the show with Brick whispering “The Middle”. I am very happy we got a glimpse into the future and got to see what happened to all the members of the Heck family because these characters are a big part of what made this show so special.

As Brock Ciarlelli said in his latest interview with TV Series Hub: “You watch a sitcom for the characters more than anything. The thing with sitcom finales is that you want the viewers to know that the characters are going to be okay. And a good finale leads you to believe that they’re still living their lives, as they’ve always done, even after the finale. And The Middle has done that… in a brilliant way.”

So I’ll finish this review with a quote from Sue: “The middle is the safest place to be”, even though she was referring to her position as the middle child, I will relate this to the show. Because the safest place is what The Middle has been for me for over the past years. The Middle is the show that I could watch at any part of the day, in whatever mood I was. It is the perfect comfort comedy and never fails to make me happy…

I want to thank the cast and crew of The Middle once again for creating an amazing show, with such great characters and storylines.

I also want to thank the fans of The Middle, the people I have gotten to know over the years. You’re all the best and together we’ll get through this 😉

And of course a big thank you to the people who frequented this website for the reviews about The Middle. Thank you so much for taking the time to read them, I really appreciate it. And if you ever need to talk about The Middle or anything else, just hit me up on Twitter.

Goodbye Heck family. I will miss you terribly.