Home / TV Review: Malcolm in the Middle Series Finale – “Graduation”

TV Review: Malcolm in the Middle Series Finale – “Graduation”

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Malcolm in the Middle has signed off after seven seasons on the Fox Network. It has experienced the highs and lows of sitcom life. Sadly, it has been in something of a tailspin for the past couple of seasons. I can’t quit put my finger on it, but the focus seems to have been lost. The show has been getting further into the oddball comedy and away from the family oriented core that it was built upon. The chemistry has just fallen apart, but fortunately the finale holds it together for a somewhat fitting finish to the series.

The series finale sees Reese and Malcolm preparing for graduation. Malcolm and his parents are trying to find the finances to send him to Harvard. Reese sits across the table gloating about his new job, the assistant janitor at the high school that he is graduating from, not to mention that he is moving in with Craig.

Malcolm moves on to preparing his speech, as he is the valedictorian. As he writes, Hal goes to a loan shark looking for the remaining money needed for Malcolm to get his education. In typical Hal fashion, this does not go as planned, resulting in his slinking away into the dark. Back at the house, Francis arrives with Grandma in tow, which is never a good combination.

Now we must move on to the plans, what is an episode of Malcolm without some crazy scheme? The trio of Malcolm, Reese, and Dewey revisit a prank from the past that has hung over them like an albatross for years. They made Lois think she had cancer. The three decide to finally put the evidence to rest. They burn it in the backyard, or at least they think they do. Reese is trying to find a way to extend his janitor job, which he learned is only 30 days due to union restrictions. He sets about creating a vile stew of dead animals, feces, and whatever else he can find, with the goal of making a massive mess at the school.

During a pre-graduation dinner with Stevie and his family as guests, Malcolm is offered a six-figure job, but he would have to forego going to school. As Malcolm is about to accept, Lois steps in and turns it down. To say Malcolm is upset would be an understatement. The next morning, as they are about to head off to the ceremony, Reese’s bomb goes off, covering everyone from head to toe in the putrid concoction. As they try to clean themselves, we get one final blowup between Malcolm and Lois. First, Malcolm airs his displeasure about his life and not getting the job earlier, Lois hits back with her presidential plans for her smartest child. It was actually a pretty good speech.

The clan does eventually make it to the graduation. Malcolm begins his speech, but the scene quickly jumps ahead three months. Francis is enjoying his new 9-5 job, without telling his mother. Reese found a way to get the school’s janitor fired, opening up the position for him. Malcolm is doing the best he can as he works through Harvard. Finally, Hal and Lois enjoy two fewer kids in the house. The peace is short lived as Lois discovers she is pregnant.

And dysfunctional life goes on.

I can’t say I am sad to see this series end, as it had a good seven-year run, but I am sad to see how this series entered a doomed tailspin towards the end. The show lost its heart somewhere. The chemistry broke down, as the writing seemed to betray the show. The one thing that was always consistent through the years was Bryan Cranston. His portrayal of Hal was genius. He was sweet, goofy, and hilarious. His steady comedy never swayed as the show fell to shambles around him.

Life is not fair.

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  • AJ1423

    I just love love the speech 🙂

  • Rob

    I say when they stopped adding Francis’s sections in is when the show lost it’s heart.

  • Malcolm Maniac

    i really feel that the finale left us a a giant cliff-hanger and i belive the last few seasons were good although it could have been better. I will really miss this show:(

  • Sabby Spellman

    I just saw the rerun of the finale. I felt it was the end, but had to double check. I must say I agree. It’s like they tried to cram so much into the show the last few seasons. But the finale really made you feel like the old show again. It was nice. I won’t say I teared up, but it made me feel a little misty. 🙂

    I always thought it was, “Life is unfair”?

  • iluvphildunphy<3

    I never watched Malcolm in the Middle in its original FOX run but I started watching when Nick @ Nite was showing reruns of it. It was such a great, witty, goofy, sometimes heartwarming comedy. I think Malcolm really re-defined the family sitcom and helped set the stage for Modern Family, which is the best show on TV right now bar none.

    And for all the talk of Malcolm’s family being dysfunctional, I found all the main characters to be very likable:

    While Reese was a bully, he was very lovable with his stupidity (and he got smoking hot in the later seasons, if I may add). I happen to know someone in real life who is almost exactly like him and he’s much more brainless and weird than mean, much like Reese was. And he comes from a poor family too!

    Dewey was just adorable, especially in the earlier years.

    Malcolm was an interesting character and I think he changed drastically from beginning to end, but you still rooted for him in spite of any flaws he had.

    Francis was a solid character.

    Hal was a caring, compassionate, and very dorky dad, like a predecessor to Phil Dunphy of Modern Family.

    Many Malcolm fans think Lois is a b-word but I really admired her tell-it-like-it-is outlook on life and the lengths she went to protect her family. One of the best TV moms ever, in my opinion. I have a friend who has that same brutally honest persona as Lois and she’s one of the nicest, most caring, and REAL people I’ve ever met.

    As you can see, Malcolm had broad appeal. Kids and teens could identify with Malcolm or even Reese and the coming-of-age storylines that were on display throughout the series. Parents could identify with Hal and Lois and their struggles that came with trying to raise a family. You may even meet people that remind you of the characters like I have, which goes to show how real of a show Malcolm was.

    I could go on talking about how great Malcolm is! It still comes on TV, but only on IFC and TEENICK. If you haven’t seen it before, I promise you will become addicted just like I did! OMG IT’S SOOO GOOD!!!! 🙂

  • icomefromanon

    Malcolm in the Middle didn’t get worse, but Malcolm does become more of a teenager (less likeable) for a bit. Also, Dewey loses his cuteness, which was his defining trait until they tried to make him artistic (wish we had some more of him, he was getting pretty funny). In the end, it was still a great show, but as someone else said, the characters were less innocent as it went on. I dunno, since I grew up with this show, it just seemed right to me (except for the sudden skip between seasons 1 and 2 where the characters definitely look older).

  • Aaron

    Everybody Hates Chris… We’re seriously even considering something like Everybody Hates Chris in the same excellent league as with Malcolm in the Middle. The only thing Malcolm is guilty of is having Francis get married at only 20-odd years old. That’s not true to his character (although it made an excellent episode), but it’s forgiveabe, and FAR from “losing its heart”.

  • Denise

    Malcolm in the middle was one of the best series I’ve ever watched. Every character was brilliant, I think that’s enough.

  • claudiak-9

    was thier last name ever given

  • John Wilson

    Many of the episodes were enjoyable, either because of realism or fancy. I especially liked an episode in which the mom imagined that she had all daughters instead of sons, and how much fun that would be, until more unfolded.

    I think the father is Bryan Cranston, who headlines in “Breaking Bad”.

  • Lisa

    I absolutely love this show and watch reruns all the time. The parents (Lois and Hal) are hilarious and the kids act like realistic brothers. This show makes me smile 🙂

  • ashlie

    did u no malcom in the middle is still on channel 38!!!!!!!!!!1

  • steve

    very well written review. altho i fail to see this “tailspin”. i feel the show was pretty consistent, plot wise. i do agree that they all matured and changed, but that happens to all families. they still continued their pranks and fights until the end.

    i think it was so successful because of how relateable it was to the average family. maybe not so extreme tho. in my opinion, best show on tv!

  • mlscupper

    absolutely agree that it beats down all the crappy shows around it. Fits in perfectly with the best because of it’s style. Wish it had continued but I thought the ending was fitting. We’ll miss Ya!!!!!

  • penn island

    Well as a 13 year old girl in my opion i think its rather tradjic that thios great wonderful serius has to come to an end i am going to miss this show even tho it ended about 7 years ago!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  • D

    Citizen Kain at the end was brilliant. I actually cried at the end a little bit… only show to do that besides the office.

  • Kat

    OK it did change BUT, i my opinion the show was still great!

    However I was disappointed in how it ended, so ..open…

    In one respect I suppose it was a marvellous and fitting ending for the show, on the other hand it just leaves me crying out for more!

  • Scott

    I think when the DVD’s come out (if they ever do…) it will be better understood that the show not only maintained, but sharpened it’s edge all the way through to the end.
    The greatest loss is the fact that Dewey was really just coming into his own. All Erik Per Sullivan has ever been is Dewey and as a result, he has really grown into the shoes well (I think he really cut his preteen/teenage teeth in the Halloween episode last year).

    If anything, the writing has improved exponentially.
    What is difficult for most people to accept (at first, I was even guilty of it) is that the boys have grown up. Malcolm lost his innocence (and thank god the show tackled it head-on with the Thanksgiving episode 3 seasons ago- (recap: Malcolm gets drunk at a party and comes home to Thanksgiving dinner in time to ralph in the turkey) – how many other ‘family’ sitcoms would portray a 16 year old getting wasted and almost rounding the bases with an equally drunk girl his age?…For the answer, let’s turn to the New Kids On The Block:

    o – o – O – o – o
    o – o – O – o

    Apparently, reality is inappropriate.)

    Regardless, the show did evolve, as all great series do. In both writing style and character story arc, the parallels between Malcolm and Seinfeld are uncanny.

    And in the end, we have a time capsule of what growing up in suburban America is REALLY like, with all the wonderful absurdities of it taken to extremes. Oddly, those extremes aren’t played up for the sake of comedy…they’re employed because without them, we would be left with only the reality of growing up…and that’s just wholly depressing.

  • I totally loved the series and you are right..somewhere somethin changed…maybe its the kids growing up especially Francis workin for otto didnt work for me
    But It will be among my top 5 favorite shows of all time
    And i disagree that Everybody Hates Chris is more superior

  • I guess you haven’t watched the excellent, and I mean excellent, Everybody Hates Chris. That is a fine example of prime family television. Malcolm seemed to lose it’s heart somewhere along the way. It is better than some shows, but the quality did take a severe dip. Bryan Cranston was the only constant on the show.

  • Ty

    I know you and others have been ripping on Malcolm the last two seasons, but I really don’t see a difference between Malcolm at its height and the last two seasons.

    IMHO, it was a well written show throughout its entire run.

    Maybe I am blind, but I never saw this tailspin. I did see many of you trash the show the last two seasons, but I never saw the basis for these opinions.

    With the end of Malcolm, we see the end of the only watchable family sitcom in the history of American Television. It will be a long time before another family sitcom comes out that you can watch for more than 5 seconds, unless According to Jim and the War at Home are your cup of tea.

    Then by all means, sip up the drivel.

  • Using pregnancy as a dark, Murphy’s-law type ending to a family sitcom is kinda ballsy.