AMC’s hit crime drama Breaking Bad has many dynamic characters and interesting antiheroes. Like the protagonist himself, these figures often ride the line in terms of mortality, yet they also hold some redeemable qualities that make them fairly likable – or at least a bit empathetic. One memorable example is Gus and Walt’s rugged associate, Mike Ehrmantraut.
A former corrupt cop now doing the dirty work for druglords – Mike is a battle-hardened right-hand man who’s seemingly seen it all. His gritty and generally cynical nature gives this away throughout the series. Yet, he has a bit of a soft spot – not to mention an amusing sarcastic, no-nonsense demeanor – that make him a fan-favorite and badass for many.
Naturally, a character like this has had his share of ugly and detestable moments. Yet, his harsh lifestyle and background have also set the stage for some sad, sympathetic bouts. Let’s take a look at five prime examples of each on Breaking Bad.
Felt Bad: Having His Money To Kaylee Seized By The DEA
Of course, it’s easy to shrug off the tons of wealth Mike had accumulated as blood money. Still, it’s pretty brutal to find out that the DEA has seized all of his earnings in the drop of a hat. It’s particularly harsh considering that his grandaughter Kaylee is going to be deprived of this financial support through no fault of her own.
Granted, Mike had no-doubt sent this cash to an account for her in order to avoid heat from the DEA. Still, that doesn’t mean his granddaughter wouldn’t likely have benefited from these earnings.
Hated Him: Needing To Pay Off “His Guys” To Keep Quiet
Just when it seems Walt’s new solo operation is starting to roll, he’s given a harsh dose of reality when informed that he must continually pay off “Mike’s guys” for keeping quiet. Who are Mike’s guys?
Well, they’re ex-employees of Ehrmantraut who get to be paid simply for not feeding information to the DEA. This makes both Mike and his several men quite the liability – and a very expensive one to boot. It’s an albatross that continues to burden Walt, at least until he takes drastic (and quite cruel) measures later in the season.
It makes one wonder just why Walt and Jesse even bothered to hire Mike on in the first place.
Felt Bad: His Lack Of Attention From Medics After Being Shot
After their trip to Mexico ends in a shootout – complete with Gus’ dose of poisonous revenge – both Fring and his associate Mike are in dire straits. Gus is reeling from the bit of poison remaining in his system, and Mike has been shot by a cartel member.
What follows is a frantic scene by medics to save a dying Gus – with essentially no attention directed to Mike, who is currently bleeding out. In fact, it seems that Jesse is the only one with any concern for Ehrmantraut at this moment. Of course, he ends up recovering, but it certainly could have gone a different way if he was continually left alone.
Hated Him: Executing Chow
As Mike made clear to Walter, he had learned the hard way when it comes to “following through” and taking on full-measures rather than leaving “the job” half done. Unfortunately, this often means hit jobs at the hands of a cold and often apathetic Ehrmantraut, who tends to stress business over humanity.
And even though Mike’s associate Chow had become a liability to him by threatening to expose their operation, it’s pretty harsh to see him executed in cold blood by his former associate. It’s not the best moment for this typically likable character.
Felt Bad: His “Half-Measures” Story
As mentioned, part of Mike’s character arc stems from the brutal lessons he learned as the right-hand man of Fring and company as well as a former beat cop. He’s learned the apparent dangers in failing to follow through and eliminate threats – even if this means taking a life.
In the episode fittingly called “Half Measures,” he tells Walt a story about how his mercy on an abusive husband tragically ended in the man murdering his wife shortly after being let go. This is a significant point of wisdom and development for White’s character, though it’s also a pretty somber, grim tale for Mike.
Despite seemingly trying to do the right thing, this decision cost an innocent life – a decision that no-doubt must have plagued him with regret.
Hated Him: Helping To Get Jesse To Turn Against Walt
As is often the case with Mike, his actions tend to be the result of just “following orders” and taking care of business, regardless of any negative outcomes. Still, it’s irritating to see Mike essentially force Pinkman into working with him, dragging him out to a number of stops and knock out tasks related to Fring’s operation.
It’s even more aggravating given the real purpose of this coup, which is to slowly-but-surely distance Jesse from Walt and fracture their relationship. This would seemingly make it far easier to eliminate Walt when the time is right. Thankfully, a loyal Jesse would have none of it.
Felt Bad: Being Spied On By Hank And Steve After Retiring
Even with some of his cruelties, it’s hard not to feel bad for Mike near the end of Breaking Bad, as he tries to simply live out a simple life and look after his grandaughter while being constantly spied on.
At this point in the show, Mike has completely let go of his criminal past and seeks to live a benign, peaceful life – but Hank and Steve have other ideas. It’s pretty rough to see a resigned Mike having so much heat on him only after he seeks to start anew and “get out of Dodge.”
Hated Him: The Knockout Punch Delivered To Walt At The Bar
Mik’es loyalty to Gus is established at quite a few points in the 3rd and 4th seasons – but one notable example takes place at a bar while having a drink with Walt. Given their history together, it’s perhaps not surprising that alarm bells would go off when White attempts to turn Mike against his associate and instead work with him.
Regardless, his knee-jerk move of socking an unsuspecting Walt in the face marks a pretty ugly moment for this character.
Felt Bad: Getting Killed By Walt
Things begin to “hit the fan” deep into the highly-regarded season 5, and the increasing heat on Ehrmantraut forces his hand to flee Albuquerque. He implores Walt to do the same, and leaves with some rather harsh parting words. He proclaims that he and Gus had a good, safe operation going until the overly-ambitious Walt came along and screwed it all up.
With this anger-inducing statement, coupled with Mike’s refusal to give up the names of his “loose-end” associates, Walt executes him as he’s beginning to drive away.
It’s a pretty somber ending for Mike, who’s seen looking solemnly upon the sunset – especially when the trigger-happy Walt realizes he could have just gotten the names from Lydia anyway.
Hated Him: Nearly Killing Walt At The Request Of Gus
Mike’s cold, business-like approach nearly gets a desperate Walter killed, as he’s deceptively summoned to the lab to “clean up a leak.” Of course, the typically intelligent Heisenberg is privy to what’s really going on. He’s been sent to a desolate location to be taken out by a seemingly apathetic Mike.
It’s hard to witness him so eager to kill Walt simply because he poses a vague threat to Gus. This is especially frustrating given the bond they had since developed – not to mention Mike’s apparent “tough guy with a heart of gold” nature that’s been established.