Episode 15: Valentine's Day IV
By: Carlos Uribe
The Middle is a show about the Heck family, an average family in Indiana.
I love the characters on this show. I think Sue is amazing and I want her to succeed. I can really relate to Brick and I hope he can socially adjust so that he can at least function in life. Axl is a regular teenager who has potential to be a better man. Mike is a sweet guy despite his tough exterior. He just doesn't know how to show it. Frankie might get annoying but it's easy to feel compassion for her and forgive her for her faults. The Heck family is a great one and I think this is an episode that really plays to all of their strengths.
I think we should begin with Mike. He's not a man with a lot to say. It's not easy for him to open up. He doesn't really do a lot for Valentine's Day as Frankie and him don't really celebrate it. Mike's idea of a present for the holiday is to take the Christmas tree to the curb without being asked. When Mike decides to do something sweet and text his wife that he thinks she's special, it accidentally goes to one of his employees. This employee doesn't take it in the wrong way but he legitimately thinks that Mike is appreciating him for who he is. When it makes all the other employees, jealous, Mike is forced to admit that the text message was meant for his wife. They all have strong opinions that the text is not romantic enough for Frankie so he ends up buying her flowers. He then basically tells her what was on the text but without actually saying the special part. He didn't have to as she knew exactly what he meant. It's really sweet and it works well. Is it a bit predictable that Mike sent the text message to the wrong person? Yes but it did lead to a situation that was funny while at the same time continuing to nudge him out of his shell. He might not open up to people a lot but this is an episode that makes it evident that he does love Frankie. That she loves him so much that she gets his gestures is a sign of how well they manage to fit together. Their little conversation ends with Frankie being delighted that he talks to his employees about her and Mike admitting that he sometimes does. That's such a brilliant note to finish out the scene as it basically speaks a lot about their characters and their expectations and desires for each other.
While Mike dealt with his text message and desire to express his appreciation for Frankie, Brick made a small arts and crafts present for his mom. It looks terrible and it's not very good. He believes it's amongst his best work and is glad to hear his mother will cherish it forever. It comes as a big surprise to him when he discovers the present in the trash can. He gets angry on why she would throw it away so she tries to lie her way out of it. This only makes Brick want to look at all of his old school projects to try and reminisce. The problem? Frankie hasn't kept a single thing that he's made. This upsets Brick because she's kept things that Sue and Axl have made. He once again feels like he's being left out. This is a recurring feeling he's been having this season as I don't remember him being so fixated on how little his parents pay attention to him compared to Axl and Sue. There were a few episodes where he expressed his worry but it seems to have taken a new focus this season. It makes sense that the writers would want to explore this side of the character as it allows Brick to share a relatable desire with other people. Considering how many quirks he has, it's a nice reminder that he's human. This does tie into how I can relate to Brick but at the same time how he needs to adjust. Of course his mom threw away his all projects as they're all pretty terrible. That wasn't the right to do, though, so Frankie does make it up to him by writing genuine letter to Brick. It's Frankie showing that despite her faults, she does love Brick. That the episode ends with Brick throwing away the letter while getting a glass of water was simply a stroke of genius.
Axl can be a bit selfish. He likes to think about himself and how things relate around him. He feels a bit entitled. I'm not talking about the sense of entitled that Mitt Romney railed against as he doesn't want anything from the government. He just thinks the world revolves around him. When his “company” goes broke, he decides that the best way to make money is to facilitate breakups the day before Valentine's Day. It's a typical sit-com plot but the Middle manages to make it work in it's favor. Axl does manage to make a nice profit but he eventually realizes that he hurt a lot of people in the process. He decides to try and make it up by trying to set up a girl with a guy but this only backfires because the girls don't trust him. Once again: he's a regular teenager in how he sees the world but once he sees that actions have consequences, he tries to redeem himself and be a better man. This might have been a slightly outlandish plot but it worked because of how it worked to highlight Axl's strengths and faults while being very funny.
The final plot has to with Sue. She's always trying her best to leave her mark but constantly finding life to be an obstacle. It's a testament to her character how she tries to maintain her optimism. When she doesn't have a date for the Valentine's Day dance, she joins the clean-up committee. She gets excited when her ex-boyfriend gets back together with her in the last hour but is devastated when he breaks up with her the day of the holiday. She actually starts to break down but luckily Darrin is there for her. Darrin has always had a crush on Sue but he's never really acted on it. He's able to do so this episode when he takes her out to the dance. It's a sweet gesture but Sue doesn't realize he's actually into her. She just thinks he's being nice. That is until he tries to make it perfectly clear how much he cares about her when he kisses her. I didn't realize this until now but I'm actually hoping to see the show is serious about pairing them up. Darrin might not very smart but he's just the right amount of sweet to work well as a character.
This was a pretty funny and great episode of the Middle. It managed to be a Valentine's Day episode while playing into the strengths and weaknesses of the characters without it necessarily being about romantic relationships. Mike's issue might have to do with his wife but it wasn't a typical Valentine's Day dilemma. He wasn't too worried about making the day special as he just wanted to express his love for his wife in a sweet and direct way. Sue's dilemma had less to do with being in a relationship but rather being a part of the school dance. The decision for Darrin to kiss her merely came out of that. Axl's plot might have been one that could only happen on television but it was focused on making money out of people's feelings. The real highlight of the episode didn't come from all of this but from the episode's exploration of Brick's relationship with his mom. Overall, it was a genius episode that took place during the holiday without allowing it to take over it's presidings.
Axl's girlfriend doesn't even make a cameo appearance this episode. A bit odd considering how serious it's supposed to be.