- "I chose a half measure, when I should have gone all the way... I'll never make that mistake again. No more half measures, Walter."
- ―Mike Ehrmantraut talking about his mistakes in the past
Michael "Mike" Ehrmantraut was a former Philadelphia police officer who worked as the Head of Corporate Security at Los Pollos Hermanos, hit man, consigliere, and enforcer in Gustavo Fring's crystal meth operation. On occasion, he served Saul Goodman as a private investigator, cleaner, and fixer. He is the secondary antagonist of Season 4 and the main antagonist for the first half of Season 5.
As a former beat cop and true professional, he maintained an extensive, up-to-date knowledge of forensic evidence, surveillance equipment, and police procedure. Mike was also well trained and cool in all types of combat situations, once using science and long strategy to take down a large number of hostiles sans fuss. A rough and rocky relationship between Jesse Pinkman and Mike began, and although initially being frustrated at being assigned to Jesse by Gus, he learned to like him after Jesse begins to show potential. However, Mike did not like Walt in the least, considering him to be selfish, arrogant, and egotistical.
He later becomes a reluctant partner in Walt and Jesse's meth operation, still despising Walt and feeling depression over Jesse's choices. Mike is a calm and calculating individual who efficiently performed his duties for Gus, using his extensive knowledge to do so without detection. Like Walt, Mike is a family man who enjoys an affectionate relationship with his granddaughter. He had an offshore account for $2 million held in his granddaughter's name, set up by Gustavo Fring, with no activity in the account.
For ten years, Mike was employed at the Philadelphia Police Department as a beat cop, frequently having to deal with situations such as break-ins to houses and domestic disputes. At some point, he gave up his career in authority (in what was described as a dramatic exit) and instead began a PI business, as well as hiring himself out as a hitman/henchman. He was married once and had a child, who later produced his granddaughter, Kaylee Ehrmantraut (the latter of whom he's shown to share a strong bond with). His spouse has neither appeared nor been mentioned.
Because of his brains, he is closer to Gus than any other criminal associate. He is trusted by Gus to be all alone in the Pollos office with the computer on at one point. Gus shaped his plans and strategies based on Mike's continual advisement. Gus once asked Mike to investigate Gus's own history, if possible, so he could gauge whether the DEA would be able to do the same; Mike reassured Gus that since he couldn't find anything on Gus, neither would the DEA. Mike is shown to have a comprehensive familiarity with the cartel, as he was able to identify Joaquin Salamanca at a glance. He, as well, has connections to several gun clubs throughout the area.
Saul manages to arrange a meeting with Gustavo Fring for Walter White and Jesse Pinkman to make a deal about selling Walt's Blue Sky. The contact referred to is probably Mike; as Saul says he "knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy [Gus]". ("Mandala")
After Jane overdosed on heroin, Walt called Saul for advice; which in response, Saul sent Mike to remove all incriminating that could link to drug use. He instructs Jesse on what procedure to follow and what to tell the paramedics (or cops) when they show up: "I woke up, I found her. That's all I know." Shortly thereafter, Jesse runs off to a crack house known as the "shooting gallery" after being devastated by what happened to Jane. Concerned about his well-being, Walt has Mike drive him to the drug den to retrieve Jesse. ("ABQ")
A few weeks later, Saul hires Mike to spy on Walter White's wife, Skyler White, who they fear may tell the authorities what she knows about her husband. While Mike is installing pinhole microphones outside the White residence, Walt shows up unexpectedly and breaks into his own home. Mike easily avoids being seen by Walt, coolly making his way back to his car. Watching through the windshield, Mike observes The Cousins' entry into Walt's house. He phones an associate of Gus, warning him of Walt's imminent murder ("Caballo Sin Nombre").
After his surveillance reveals discord in the White household, Mike arrives at Saul Goodman's office with recordings. Hearing on the tape that Walt planned to visit Ted Beneke at his office, Saul sends Mike to stop him. Finding Walt being escorted out of Beneke Fabricators by security, Mike twists Walt's arms, throws him into the back of his car, and takes him back to Saul's office. There, Saul tries to rationalize with Walt about his erratic behavior, but Walt is angered by a comment made about his wife and attacks Saul. Mike, though off the clock, eventually steps in to stop him. He then takes Walt home where Walt has demanded all recording equipment be removed from his home.
Mike obliges, then is escorted by Walt back to his car. Mike remarks "Y'know, Walter, sometimes it's not so bad to have someone watching your back," having noticed a scythe chalked on the pavement outside the house by the Cousins. He later provides Gus with information on Walt's health issues, suggesting that he use the threat of the Cousins to get Walt producing meth again, but Gus refuses, saying that fear should only be used for motivation as a final resource ("Green Light").
Mike is later seen leaving the hospital following the failed assassination attempt on Hank, dropping a syringe into a disposal bin on his way out. It is implied that he poisoned the surviving Cousin to induce cardiac arrest on Gus's orders, to prevent him from informing Juan Bolsa that Gus authorized the hit on Hank contrary to Bolsa's restrictions on the DEA ("I See You").
A few days later, Mike pays Walt a visit at his home, calling it a "professional courtesy." Walt had a plan to somehow get Jesse arrested on a misdemeanor charge and temporarily placed in a very minimum security jail. Mike informs Walt that he won't help with this scheme as their mutual boss, Gus, wouldn't like it. From there, Mike tells Walt a detailed story about his days as a beat cop. He relates that at one point, he had to deal with a domestic dispute issue between a husband and wife. The man would beat his wife continually and Mike would have to take the man away to the precinct jail for the night and then send him back home in the morning, since the woman wouldn't press charges. During one of these instances, Mike became particularly enraged by the man's abuse, so he took him out to the desert, beat him, and held a gun to his head, threatening to kill him if he ever beat his wife again. However, weeks later, the man killed his wife by bludgeoning her with a blender base. It is implied that Mike eventually killed the man and, though he could not be convicted for the murder, he was discharged from the force, prompting him to become a career criminal. Mike tells Walt that by warning the man instead of killing him when he took him to the desert, he used a "half measure" to resolve the problem, which proved ineffective and he should have instead taken the "full measure". Mike advises Walt not to take any half measures with Jesse and then leaves ("Half Measures").
Later on, after Walt kills two dealers working for Gus (who Jesse was gunning for because they killed the child they punked to do their dirty work for them), Mike sets out to find Jesse. He intimidates Saul into giving him information on Jesse's whereabouts, but a wisely retreating Saul deftly slips him a fake address. The next day (after one more cook), Mike is suddenly told that he and Victor, another fiercely loyal henchman working for Gus, must kill Walt. Walt begs for his life and offers up Jesse in exchange, revealing that he knows his whereabouts. They unwittingly allow Walt to give Jesse a call, but he uses this opportunity to give Jesse an order to kill Gale Boetticher, the man being groomed to be Walt's replacement in the superlab. Mike, who didn't know Walter knew Gale's address, holds Walt at gunpoint as Victor races in a panic to Gale's apartment to stop Jesse ("Full Measure").
Now very upset, Mike continues to hold Walt at gunpoint in the superlab. Victor eventually returns with Jesse and rages to him about Gale's death, which deeply worries and frustrates Mike. The situation of both henchmen is made even worse when Mike asks Victor if he was seen by witnesses. Victor admitted that he was "just another looky-loo," which inspires Mike to remark "I guess I better get this over with." He then walks away from Victor and presumably calls Gus to alert him Gale's murder. He, along with the other three, wait for Gus to arrive. They have all made mistakes and are uneasy about the boss showing up. When Gus finally does arrive, he brutally slashes Victor's throat, holding him in a manner that will speed his blood loss and hasten death, all of which startles Mike who instinctually pulls his weapon. He is then compelled to oversee Walt and Jesse's disposal of Victor's corpse, which they liquefy using hydrofluoric acid ("Box Cutter").
The morning after Victor's death, he remains deeply unsettled by what had transpired earlier, having witnessed what Gus is capable of when his subordinates fail him. At night, he's tracked down by Walt at a bar and listens to an attempt to convince him to help bring Gus down. Instead of joining Walt, Mike squares up and gives him fair warning "are you done?" and sends him to the floor. He gives him a boot heel lesson in loyalty before he thanks Walt for the drink and departs via the front door ("Thirty-Eight Snub").
A few days later, Mike, anticipating trouble, is concealed in the back of a refrigerated Los Pollos truck that is transporting meth. Two cartel hijackers show up and kill another of Gus' truck drivers, then empty their machine guns into the back of the prone truck. However, knowing their MO from previous hijacks, Mike survives the attack by crouching on the floor behind cover. After dispatching the trigger happy bandits with minimum fuss, he notices that he hasn't escaped unscathed: the first bullet took off a small piece of his right ear.
Afterwards, Mike is notified by Tyrus Kitt of a sneaky thief gutter-punk stealing money from Jesse's house. The two catch the punk responsible, then return to Jesse's house where they get rid of all the tweekers, then awaken Jesse to the news. Mike warns Jesse that his behavior is unacceptable and he is "walking on thin ice." Jesse surprises Mike by calling the play as a bluff. As a result, Mike reports this to Gus and gets the permission for some disciplinary actions. Mike is then seen with Jesse in a car driving to an unknown location ("Bullet Points").
On the drive, Mike has a phone conversation with Walt and reassures him that Jesse is in safe hands. Way out in the desert, Mike drives up a long dirt road and after a few minutes stops the car near an old shack and grabs a shovel from the trunk. Jesse nervously holds his keys in his fist as a makeshift weapon; Mike sees this but walks right by him and starts digging a hole in the yard seemingly at random. Mike pulls a bag of money out of the ground and tosses it in the trunk. He then tells Jesse that they have six more money bags to collect that day and he wants to finish before dark. He needs his rest.
As the pickups continue, he becomes suddenly overtly annoyed by Jesse's physical, audible expressions of boredom and impatience. After listening to Jesse demand he tell him what they're doing and why, Mike abruptly pulls the car over and angrily explains his mourning over Victor and his cluelessness about Gus's real motives (and to that extent, why Jesse was ordered to come along). He then barks that in no way is Jesse "the guy" for this job, which Jesse buys because he's angry too.
Mike makes the final pickup of the evening at another abandoned warehouse. Whilst he's inside, a second vehicle arrives, and Jesse notices one of its occupants approaching Mike's car with a shotgun. After Jesse hits the other vehicle with Mike's Chrysler and peels away, Mike is seen wandering the streets calling someone on his cell for a ride. Not long after Jesse drives up in the Chrysler and tells him what went down while he was inside the warehouse. Mike, sufficiently impressed, actually lets Jesse smoke inside his now dented car.
Later, Mike and Gus rendezvous outside Los Pollos Hermanos. Mike has been waiting alone in Gus's office, next to the active computer, and expresses his wish to not kill Jesse. It seems that Gus's objective was to make Jesse believe he was a 'hero' and that Mike now owes Jesse (though Mike does seem puzzled about the logic of Gus's ultimate plan). ("Shotgun")
Mike works security for a meetup between Gus and the Juárez Cartel, but only Gaff shows up to offer Gus an ultimatum. ("Problem Dog") Mike then leads an operation to clean up the Los Pollos Hermanos farm before Hank Schrader investigated it. One of Mike's men was gunned down but Mike managed to save Jesse's life. ("Bug")
Mike and Jesse accompany Gus to Mexico where Jesse will teach the cartel chemist how to cook Blue Sky. At a party afterward, Gus poisons many cartel members and Mike garrotes Gaff. Gus drank some of the poison himself and is severely weakened despite his effort to vomit it all out. As the trio hobble to a car with Gus when attempting to escape, Mike is shot by one of the cartel members, Joaquin Salamanca. Jesse kills Joaquin and flees in a stolen car with Mike and Gus ("Salud").
Mike tells Jesse to drive to a warehouse where there is a doctor waiting for them. At first the doctors only seem concerned about Gus, frustrating Jesse, but eventually they get around to treating Mike after explaining, "This man pays my salary" (referring to Gus). Mike is given ample blood transfusions, stitched up, but has to stay in Mexico for at least a week to recuperate while Gus and Jesse return to the States. Gus indicates to Jesse that he will send for him when he is well enough to travel ("Crawl Space").
Mike is alive in Mexico, recuperating at the temporary medical facility. Gustavo Fring's doctor informed him that Gus has been murdered and Mike returns to New Mexico to murder Walt for revenge. Instead, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman convince him to help them destroy the video evidence from the superlab. Mike begrudgingly agrees to help them break into Albuquerque PD's parking lot to use a giant magnet to destroy the laptop through the wall. They get away in Mike's town car but Mike isn't hasty to believe it worked to which Walt responds that it worked "because I said so" ("Live Free or Die").
When Walt and Jesse visit him at home to see if he will work with them, he tells them he plans not to. When Walt tries to convince him, he stills says no, claiming, "You are a time bomb... Tick tick ticking... And I have no intention to be around for the boom." Walt and Jesse agree to go with it. He talks to Lydia Rodarte-Quayle when they are talking about Fring's nine men, and they come to the conclusion Mike will handle it. Mike is brought in for questioning by Hank Schrader and Steven Gomez, where they question him over the course of several questions, he continues to talk his way out, and ends their conversation by saying, "Excuse me, but I am under arrest?" Unfortunately, Lydia sends Chris Mara, a hitman also formally on Fring's payroll, after Mike. Chris Mara then uses Chow to lure Mike into a trap but Mike is too intelligent. Mike takes Chris by surprise and after a short interrogation revealing Chow's dead body, shoots him four times through the chest, killing him. Mike then goes after Lydia for placing the hit out on her, putting her at gunpoint, but stops when he realizes Walt is going to need more methylamine. He pulls himself away from shooting Lydia in the head, and says, "Can you still get your hands on a barrel of methylamine?" To which, after some brief questions, she replies, "Maybe." Mike sits down in his car outside Lydia's house, calls Walter and tells Walt, "I'm in." To which Walt replies, "Good." ("Madrigal")
Mike promises Dennis Markowski that he will get him his hazard pay. Walt, Jesse, and Mike decide they'll need a lawyer, so, they turn to Saul. It takes awhile for Mike and Saul to get used to each other again, but when they do, they really work. They find out where they're gonna cook, with the help of Walt's idea. Mike introduces them to Ira, Todd Alquist, and their team. He explains Ira steals things, and that Todd and the others will be helping them. Mike and Walt fight when Mike puts aside money to pay the nine men to keep quiet, and Mike puts in a good fight, but Walt does to. They end with Jesse trying to donate some extra money to Walt, only for Walt to hand it back over and to tell Mike it's fine, lying. ("Hazard Pay")
Mike calls Lydia and warns her just moments before the DEA comes to Madrigal Electromotive GmbH. Mike tells them the DEA planted a barrel of methylamine after hearing from Lydia, and gives in the fight to Walt that they kill Lydia. ("Fifty-One")
Mike puts Lydia to gunpoint as she calls the DEA and gets the issue resolved. Mike decides to let Lydia go when she proves herself worthy by offering them a chance to rob methylamine from a freight train. Mike helps rob the train, standing far away and making sure all goes swiftly. When a little bit of trouble happens, he urges Walt, Jesse, and Todd to abort the mission, but, Walt being Walt, gives in a fight and denies giving up. They win over the methylamine and get away safely. Mike doesn't witness Todd killing the kid, but gets mad over it. ("Dead Freight")
Mike and Walt vote that Todd continue working with them, and tells Jesse it's because they can't be paying him a large amount for him to keep quiet. Todd stays with the group, but Mike shoves him to the wall and threatens him. "If you ever bring a gun to a job again without telling me, I will stick it up your ass sideways." Mike says. Todd agrees, and Mike lets him go. When the DEA watch him, he writes a note and puts it under a garbage can. The DEA think that he is performing a 'dead drop', so when Mike leaves Gomez goes over to the garbage can only to to find a note 'Fuck you' written on it. Mike gets fed up with the DEA following him, and convinces Jesse to give in and have a buyout. At first, Walt is mad at only Jesse, but then tries to convince both. But neither listen. Mike tells Walt they're selling the last gallon to a man he knows. Walt goes to steal it, only to be caught. Mike pats him down and ties him to a radiator. Mike talks to Saul, and upon returning to find the methylamine gone, he goes into the room, sees Jesse and Walt, puts Walt at gunpoint, only listening to Jesse saying, "He's gotta plan, it works for all of us." "Is that true Walter?" Mike asks, giving him a chance. Walt looks fearless as he says, "Everybody wins." ("Buyout")
Mike, Walt, and Jesse deal with Declan. Mike says goodbye to Jesse. Mike works with a lawyer, but the attempt to "quit" goes bad when his lawyer is caught putting money into his nine former co-workers boxes. His money is taken and as a last ditch effort Mike asks Saul to get his money he stashed in an airport car. Walt, who is there with Jesse offers to in exchange. Walt after demanding Mike's "nine names" is refused by Mike; in a fit of rage shoots him. Mike manages to escape only a few yards down a river bank because of his bullet wound. Walt remembers he could get the name from Lydia and offers some apology but Mike tells him to shut up, and let him die in peace. They sit together in silence as Mike fades into death. ("Say My Name")
His corpse is briefly seen in Walter's trunk while Todd and Walt talk about what to do about the subject. They dispose of his body using hydrofluoric acid. ("Gliding Over All")
Better Call Saul
In January 2014, it was announced that Jonathan Banks would be reprising his critically acclaimed role as Mike Ehrmantraut in AMC's Better Call Saul, a spin-off prequel series to Breaking Bad.
Personality and traits
- "Mike is a man who knows he's lost a good chunk of his soul, and seems sad and world-weary about it. But he goes on nonetheless because he knows his strengths as well as his weaknesses."
- ―Vince Gilligan
In his role as an ex-cop, private investigator, fixer, and assassin, Mike has often been of service to Saul, but his true loyalty was to Gus. Although Mike doesn't seem to feel even a bit conflicted about the crimes he commits, he also isn't terribly interested in gratuitous cruelty or shooting his way to the top of the meth lord food chain - he just does what's necessary to keep himself and his boss safe, with a minimum of ego-tripping and drama. He also loved and cared very deeply about his grandchildren.
Murders commited by Mike
- Leonel Salamanca: Poisoned with unknown substance. ("I See You")
- 4 Cartel Assassins: All shot to death. ("Full Measure")
- 2 Cartel Assassins: Both shot to death. ("Bullet Points")
- Gaff: Garroted to death. ("Salud")
- Chris Mara: Shot to death. ("Madrigal")
- "You know, Walter, sometimes it doesn't hurt to have someone watching your back."
- ―Mike taking to Walter after removing the bugs from Walter's house
- "That guy Mike, that grunting dead-eyed cretin, sucker punching me in the face! I've got Gus wielding a box cutter! I mean...Western Union! Message received! Let me ask you, when did this stop being a business, hm? Why am I the only person capable of behaving in a professional manner?"
- ―Walter White talking about the empire's situation
- Mike: "Thanks, but no thanks."
- Walter: "Mike, I know you don't care for me. We've had our issues, you and I. But, I would suggest that you leave emotion out of this decision."
- Mike: "I am. You...are trouble. I'm sorry the kid doesn't see it, but I sure as hell do. You are a time bomb, tick-tick-ticking. And I have no intention of being around for the boom."
- —Mike refusing Walter's offer[src]
- "We had a good thing, you stupid son of a bitch! We had Fring, we had a lab, we had everything we needed, and it all ran like clockwork! You could have shut your mouth, cooked, and made as much money as you ever needed! It was perfect! But no! You just had to blow it up! You, and your pride and your ego! You just had to be the man! If you’d known your place, we’d all be fine right now!"
- ―Mike's angry rant at Walt
- "Shut the fuck up and let me die in peace."
- ―Mike's last words
- Mike's surname "Ehrmantraut" was not revealed until episode 11 of Season 4, "Crawl Space". It was seen briefly on a shelf label in the medical tent, where bags of typed-and-matched blood for Gus, Mike, and Jesse were stored. It was never spoken until episode 2 of Season 5, "Madrigal". Mike is called in for an interview by the DEA, to be conducted by Hank and Steve Gomez, and just before it begins, Hank asks Mike if it is pronounced "Air-min-trout", and Mike tells him "Close enough." Later, though, Mike himself pronounces it as "Er-min-trout."
- The name "Ehrmantraut" has appeared before in Vince Gilligan's works. In the Gilligan-penned X-Files episode "Tithonus" (6x10), a Ms. Ehrmantraut is the subject of one of Mulder and Scully's many dull background checks. Mulder: "In the time that you worked with Ms. Ehrmantraut, did you find her to be a trustworthy person?" "Punctual, huh? Yeah uh, punctual is good." See references to The X-Files.
- Ehrmantraut is a rather unique and old-fashioned German name. The words "Ehr" and "man" can be translated as "man of honor", while the suffix "traut" comes from the Middle High German trûen, trûwen ("to believe", "to trust", "to hope") closely related to "Treue" ("loyalty", "fidelity").
- Mike's blood type is O-. ("Salud")
- It is entirely possible that Mike may have at one point been in U.S special forces for example, in Season 4 Episode 6 "Cornered", Mike refers to men he wants hired as soldiers as "operators" which is what Tier 1 Special Forces soldiers are officially designated as. Another example is that one of his main sidearms, the Heckler&Koch Mark 23, is used by the U.S. Special Forces.
- In an interview, Banks stated that in his vision, Mike wouldn't have left Kaylee in the playground when the DEA found him. But he accepted the scene as it was, since he respects the writers.
- Mike owns several cars throughout the series:
- Mike never met Walter White Jr., Skyler White or Marie Schrader.
- Mike seems to have at least a simple understanding of Spanish, as he was able to translate the message to Gus on the Pollos Hermanos container ("¿Estás listo para placticar?"), though he may have had Tyrus translate it, who does speak Spanish. ("Cornered")
- The location used for external shots of Mike's home was a private residence located at 204 Edith Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87102.
| Main: Walter White • Jesse Pinkman • Skyler White • Walter White Jr. • Hank Schrader • Marie Schrader • Saul Goodman • Gustavo Fring • Mike Ehrmantraut • Lydia Rodarte-Quayle • Todd Alquist
Supporting: Steven Gomez • Brandon "Badger" Mayhew • Skinny Pete • Christian "Combo" Ortega • Tuco Salamanca • Hector "Tio" Salamanca • The Cousins • Jane Margolis • Ted Beneke • Victor • Gale Boetticher • Jack Welker