Forget about athletes, movie stars and politicians. Parents are the real heroes - but we think Frankie Heck, must be some kind of superhero. A loving wife and mother of three, she's middle class in the middle of the country and is rapidly approaching middle age.
Frankie and her husband, Mike, have lived in Orson, Indiana, their whole lives. A man of few words (every one a zinger), Mike is a manager at the town quarry and Frankie is the third-best used car salesman (out of the three) at the local dealership. She may not be a high-powered career woman, but when it comes to her family, she'll go to just about any length. And with kids like these, she had better. There's Axl, her semi-nudist teenage son conceived while under the influence of Guns N' Roses; Sue, the awkward teenage daughter who fails at everything... but with the utmost of gusto; and their seven-year-old son Brick, whose best friend is his backpack.
Sometimes it seems like everyone is trying to get to the top, or struggling not to hit bottom, but we think Frankie and her family will find a lot of love, and a lot of laughs, somewhere in The Middle.
Axl returns home from his summer trip to Europe, sporting a man-bun and embracing a new, chill outlook on life. Meanwhile, Frankie tries to come up with an item for a time capsule being buried under the Orson cow that will make the town remember the Hecks when it's opened in 100 years.
After Frankie gives neighbor Nancy Donahue an old scarf that is just sitting around gathering dust, Nancy returns the favor by baking her a delicious apple pie. Believing she's stumbled upon a way to get free and tasty meals, Frankie makes it her mission to find miscellaneous items around the house to give to her in exchange for some culinary delights. Meanwhile, Sue and Lexie prepare to move back into their college apartment but find that it's been sublet to a man who refuses to leave; and Axl's new job as the school bus driver gives him a chance to see how Brick's high school sophomore year is treating him, and he discovers that Mike has refused to speak to Brick's class on Career Exploration Day.
Frankie is stoked when Axl invites her and Mike to meet and have dinner with girlfriend Lexie's rich parents, Tammy and Bennett. But Frankie is worried that their less then luxurious lifestyle may put a damper on their meeting. Meanwhile, Brick is excited to be a part of the Sophomore Slammer fundraiser, in which fellow classmates fake arrest each other and friends come to pay money – which will go to charity – to bail them out. But Brick soon discovers that no matter how hard he tries, he just can't get arrested.
As Halloween approaches, Frankie discovers that a woman had died in the bathtub of the Heck house close to 50 years ago, and Frankie and Brick become convinced that she was murdered and, much to Mike's chagrin, attempt to track down and find the murderer. Meanwhile, Axl and Lexie become frustrated over losing their alone time when Sue insists on hanging out with them wherever they go.
While Axl tries to invent a new beverage that mixes wine with beer and Brick decides to join the school orchestra in an attempt to play the field and find himself a new girlfriend, Mike asks Sue to take the reins in putting together a romantic evening for him and Frankie to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary – which both of them totally forgot. Frustrated with being the family member whose role is to do everything they ask of her without complaint, Sue puts her foot down and declares she will no longer be that person, which causes the rest of the Hecks to rethink and rebel against what their supposed familial roles have been.