In the season premiere, “Vive La Hecks,” Axl returns home from his summer trip to Europe, sporting a man-bun and embracing a new, chill European outlook on life. Mike just wants him to clean up and look for a job, but Frankie thinks Axl will do this on his own and asks Mike to give him a little breathing room. Meanwhile, because Sue worked the entire summer at Spudsy’s and missed out on having any fun, she decides to cram in a whole summer of fun in two days before going back to college; Brick makes the decision to break up with Cindy because he doesn’t want to be tied down in a relationship when he’s about to embark on the revelry of his “big sophomore year”; and Frankie desperately tries to come up with an item for a time capsule that’s being buried under the Orson cow that will make the town remember the Hecks when it’s opened in 100 years.
Now entering its ninth season, two-time Emmy-winner Patricia Heaton stars in this warm and witty single-camera comedy about raising a family and lowering your expectations. Middle-aged, middle class and living in the middle of the country in Orson, Indiana, Frankie Heck is a harried wife and mother of three who uses her wry wit and sense of humor to get her family through each day intact. Frankie works as a dental assistant, and her unflappable husband, Mike, is manager at the local quarry and her sardonic partner in the daily grind that is raising their average – yes, most definitely average – family.
Between juggling shifts and picking up fast-food dinners eaten in front of the TV, Frankie and Mike raise their kids with love, humor and solid Midwestern practicality. Although Mike is still on his back to get a job, Axl will do so, but at his own leisurely pace. Axl is still dating Lexie, and their relationship is getting serious enough that it’s time for Frankie and Mike to meet her rich parents, which makes them just a tad nervous. Then there’s the ever-optimistic Sue, their extraordinarily ordinary daughter, who fails at just about everything she tries with great gusto.
She is excited to start her third year at college with roommate Lexie but is still trying to get used to the fact that Axl and Lexie are dating. And she still has the snow globe that she found in the trash – unaware that Sean Donahue was going to give it to her and profess his crush on her before a misunderstanding quashed the moment. Sue has unrequited feelings for him, too, but will they ever discover their mutual attraction for each other? And finally there’s Brick, their quirky son, who reads constantly, whispers and “whoops” to himself, as well as unapologetically marches to the beat of his own drummer. Now entering his sophomore year in high school, he thinks this will finally be his time to become more popular and decides to break up with his equally quirky girlfriend Cindy so that he’s not tied down. But, being a Heck, things probably won’t go quite as smoothly as he would like.
Frankie and Mike had hoped to continue finding themselves with an emptier nest, which, in theory, would have let them cut back on their parental duties. But with Axl now back at home along with Brick, they find that hope quickly fading. Parenting is never over no matter where your kids are. Balancing kids and work never really gets easier – it just gets different. Their hilarious struggles continue, but through all the madness shines a loving family, and together the Hecks continue putting The Middle on the map.