Warning: The following contains spoilers from the series finale of ABC’s The Middle.
The series finale of ABC’s The Middle gives all the Heck kids their deserved happy endings — but not before one last family road trip.
The hour-long sendoff finds the Hecks preparing for Axl’s big move to Denver. Frankie has the most difficult time processing the news; she attempts to keep her cool in front of her son, but is otherwise freaking out. She nearly loses it when Mike gets a special moment with Axl, taking him aside to give him an old watch that once belonged to his grandfather. It’s inscribed with the coordinates to the family’s home, so he always remembers where he came from. (D’aw!)
Brick, meanwhile, doesn’t seem all that fazed by Axl’s imminent departure. Upon learning that his brother’s leaving, he immediately begins constructing a reading lounge on Axl’s side of the bedroom. On his last night in Orson, Axl finds Brick reserving a window seat in the family car, and asks why he’s not more upset. Brick admits he’s going to miss Axl a whole lot, and busying himself in the wake of his brother’s big announcement was his way of coping with it. Sue then joins them, and gets a very special moment with both of her brothers. She tells them that she loves being the middle child, because it’s allowed her to be both a big sister and a little sister.
The next morning, the Hecks gather Axl’s belongings and hit the open road on a cross-country trip to Denver. Upon exiting the house, Axl is greeted by friends and neighbors — including Lexie, Brad, Bill Norwood and all the Donahues — to bid him a fond farewell. Weird Ashley also shows up to see him off, but insists it’s not goodbye. Sean, meanwhile, is at the airport, set to depart for Ghana when security pulls him over and asks about the snow globe in his luggage. He takes it as a sign that he shouldn’t leave without telling Sue how he feels, then returns home to discover that she’s halfway to Denver. Sick of waiting, he gets in his car and catches up to her; on the side of the road, he professes his love for the girl next door. They seal the deal with a kiss, then Sue promises to wait for him until he returns from Africa in the fall.
Afterwards, the Hecks get back on the road. The kids are in the backseat, burning through phone data, and the ‘rents remind them that they can’t afford to go over their limits. Axl suggests that his folks take him off the family plan to lower the cost of their bill, which winds up being the thing that makes Frankie snap. She tells Mike to pull over and gets out of the car. “I tried, Axl,” she says. “I tried to be cool so that you’d come back and visit… but you know what? I’m not cool. I am not OK with this.
“This is it,” she continues. “It’s over. The five of us are never going to be together like this again. Axl’s leaving, Sue’s gonna take some hotel job, Brick will be sealed up in his room reading, and Dad will blow up [at the quarry] and I’ll find out from some grief counselor. It’s the end of an era, and it’s never gonna be the same again.” As she tries (and fails) to fight back tears, Mike smiles and says, “That’s the way it’s supposed to be.” They all go in for a group hug, then promise Frankie that they’ll always remain on the same data plan. Afterwards, they return to the car and continue towards Denver, but forget the blue snack bag on the side of the road. We’re then treated to a series of flash-forwards, revealing where all the Heck kids wind up:
* Axl eventually moves back to Orson, where he and Lexie settle down and have three children: all boys who are just like Axl.
* Brick grows up to become a successful author, penning a series of novels about a quirky young man who gets sucked into his magical microfiche machine and travels through time with his trusty backpack. Not only does Brick sport a magnificent beard, but he’s also wearing a wedding ring. (I’d like to think he winds up with Cindy.)
* Sean and Sue break up a bunch of times, but eventually get married in an outdoor ceremony officiated by — who else? — Reverend Tim Tom.
We then return to present day. Mike winks at Frankie, and she smiles back at him. We then cut to a wide shot of the car driving further away, and overhear the family arguing about the missing blue bag. Axl blames Sue, then Brick chimes in: “This is why I didn’t want to sit in the middle. [Whispers] The Middle!”
And there you have it! After nine seasons, 215 episodes and at least half a dozen blue bags, The Middle has reached its end. What will you miss most about ABC’s unsung family comedy?