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|Michael "Mike" Ehrmantraut|
|Breaking Bad / Better Call Saul character|
|Created by||Vince Gilligan|
|Portrayed by||Jonathan Banks|
Michael "Mike" Ehrmantraut is a fictional character in Breaking Bad and its spinoff prequel Better Call Saul, played by Jonathan Banks. Mike is a former Philadelphia police officer who works for Gus—and, on occasion, Saul—as a private investigator, head of security, cleaner, and hitman. His reasons for leaving the force in Philadelphia are never specified during the Breaking Bad series, but are detailed in Better Call Saul.
In the Better Call Saul episode "Gloves Off", it is implied that Mike is a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War. Given the story he told Walter White about missing a chance to kill an abusive perpetrator who eventually murdered a victim Mike was trying to help, and Hank's refusal during an interrogation to bring up the reason for Mike's discharge from the police force, it is implied in Breaking Bad that Mike decided to take revenge against the abusive perpetrator, which resulted in his departure from law enforcement. As a result of this experience, one of the lessons Mike employed in his post-police activities was to not take "half measures". The prequel series Better Call Saul revealed that Mike, a crooked cop himself, murdered two other crooked cops who had killed his son Matt, an honest cop who hesitated to involve himself in corruption. Mike's daughter-in-law Stacey and granddaughter Kaylee had relocated to Albuquerque after Matt's death, and the day after Mike killed the two corrupt police officers (circa 2002), he fled to Albuquerque to be close to them. He took a job as an attendant at the parking lot for the Albuquerque Courthouse, where the evening and night hours often facilitated his ability to conduct illegal activities during the day. He is a notably calm and calculating individual who efficiently performed his duties for Gus, using his extensive knowledge of law enforcement procedures to do so without detection. He is shown to avoid targeting or involving innocent bystanders in his criminal activities.
Mike first appears after he is sent to remove all evidence of drugs from Jesse's apartment and to coach him on how to interact with the authorities after Jesse wakes from his heroin-induced sleep to find his girlfriend Jane dead, having choked on her own vomit.
Saul Goodman hires Mike to spy on Skyler White , which he is doing when Tuco Salamanca's dangerous cousins, Leonel and Marco show up to murder Walt in revenge for Tuco's death. Mike calls Victor and has him tell Gus to intervene with the cartel. The cousins then receive a text message reading "Pollos", which they understand as an instruction not to act, so they leave without Walt knowing they had been in his house. Walt later intends to kill Gale, knowing that with Gale in possession of Walt's meth formula, Gus considers Walt expendable. Victor and Mike are supposed to protect Gale, but Jesse succeeds in killing Gale in order to save Walt.
Mike helps Gus strongarm Walt and Jesse into the lab, and watches as Gus kills Victor with a box cutter to punish Victor for being recognized at Gale's apartment and to demonstrate to Walt and Jesse that they are expendable. Mike continues Victor's duties in monitoring them in the superlab. Based on Mike's observations, Gus believes they can create dissent between Walt and Jesse, and has Mike start grooming Jesse by bringing him along on cash pickups and drug deliveries. Jesse foils a staged robbery, boosting his confidence, and increasing his loyalty to Mike and Gus. Jesse takes the initiative to aid in recovering stolen drugs, further impressing Mike and Gus. Gus brings Mike and Jesse to a meeting with Don Eladio and the Mexican cartel, offering to end the dispute between Eladio and Gus by having Jesse remain to cook blue meth in the cartel's own lab. The offer is a ruse and Gus poisons Eladio and the other cartel leaders; the cartel bodyguards start firing on them, and Mike and Jesse protect Gus as they flee. In a makeshift medical tent, Gus is treated for his wounds, and he and Jesse return to Albuquerque, while Mike's wounds require him to remain before he's well enough to travel.
Gus removes Walt from the lab and puts Jesse in charge. Fearing for his and his family's lives, Walt frantically works to find a way to eliminate Gus. After a plan to bomb Gus' car fails, Walt convinces Jesse that Gus poisoned his girlfriend's son Brock with ricin, giving Jesse reason to turn on Gus. Based on Jesse's information, Walt gets Hector Salamanca to agree to kill Gus by detonating a bomb Walt attaches to Hector's wheelchair. Hector lures Gus to his nursing home room and succeeds in setting off the explosion, which kills Gus, Tyrus and himself. Walt and Jesse then destroy Gus' meth "superlab".
Mike learns of Gus' death, blames Walt and Jesse, and intends to kill them. Walt points out that security camera footage from the lab, which is stored on Gus' computer, will implicate Mike, Walt and Jesse. They succeed in destroying the footage while Gus' computer is in the police evidence room, and Walt and Jesse suggest a new partnership, but Mike refuses. Mike is contacted by Lydia Rodarte-Quayle, the Madrigal executive who supplied chemicals for Gus' meth operation, who asks Mike to kill his associates who knew of Gus' operation. Mike tells Lydia that they don't need to be killed to ensure their silence, because Gus previously arranged to pay them via off-shore accounts. Hank and Steve tell Mike the accounts were located and seized by the DEA, so Mike has to find a new way to pay Gus' men. Lydia contacts one of Mike's associates to carry out the executions she asked Mike to perform, and also kill Mike. Mike kills the associate first, but instead of killing Lydia, he blackmails her to continue supplying methylamine for Walt and Jesse's operation. He agrees to join Walt and Jesse in a partnership so that he can make enough money to continue paying his associates for their silence.
After suspecting the DEA is tracking the shipment of methylamine barrels from Madrigal's warehouse, Lydia suggests stealing methylamine from a railroad tanker car, and provides Mike the details. The theft goes as planned, but when a local boy witnesses them, Todd kills him. Mike and Jesse decide to cash out by selling their share of the methylamine to Declan and Mike tells Walt he will pay his associates from his share. Walt continues to make meth with Declan, and accumulates a sizeable fortune. The ongoing DEA investigation into Gus connects him to Mike, and agents acquire a search warrant for Mike's home. Mike stashes his money and other necessary items in a "go bag" that he hides in an airport parking lot, and the DEA find nothing in his home. Their continued investigation leads them to Dan Wachsberger, who acts as Mike's go-between in paying off his associates. Walt learns the DEA is investigating Dan and warns Mike. Mike flees and asks Walt to meet him with the "go bag". Walt meets Mike but refuses to turn over the bag unless Mike reveals the names of his associates so Walt can have them killed. Mike refuses, and Walt angrily grabs the gun from Mike's bag and shoots him. Walt apologizes and says he just realized he could have asked Lydia for the names, but Mike tells Walt to leave him alone and let him die in peace. Walt ends up disposing of Mike's body with hydrofluoric acid.
Better Call Saul
Mike, a former Philadelphia police officer now relocated to Albuquerque to be close to his daughter-in-law and granddaughter, works as a parking lot attendant at the courthouse, where he meets Jimmy. He also does private investigating, security and "muscle" jobs on the side, including helping Jimmy out with the Kettlemans, a family involved in embezzlement. After serving as a bodyguard for Daniel "Pryce" Wormald, a naïve drug company employee who wants to sell pills stolen from his employer, he finds himself dealing with Pryce's buyer Nacho Varga, a key figure within the Salamanca drug cartel.
Impressed by Mike's work for Pryce, Nacho approaches him with a request to kill Tuco Salamanca, Hector's nephew, because his erratic actions are drawing unnecessary attention to the Salamanca's operations. Mike fears the cartel will find out and kill him. Instead, he fakes an altercation with Tuco that leads to Tuco being imprisoned for assault with a deadly weapon. Hector doesn't object to Tuco spending a small amount of time in prison as a learning experience, but bribes Mike to say the gun was his, which reduces Tuco's sentence. Mike's dealings with Hector make him think Hector suspects he intentionally caused Tuco's arrest, causing Mike to feel uneasy about the safety of his daughter-in-law and granddaughter. He attempts to draw the police into investigating Hector's drug business by causing one of Hector's cargo trucks to crash and stealing the $250,000 hidden inside one of the tires, while leaving the driver tied up by the side of the road. Mike intended for a passer-by to call the police, but finds out from Nacho that when a passing motorist stopped and aided the driver, the driver called Hector. Hector then dispatched a crew to clean up the scene, including killing the good Samaritan so that the drug ring wouldn't be exposed. Mike then prepares to assassinate Hector, but an unseen third party disrupts his plan.
Mike assumes someone used a tracking device to identify his location and prevent him from killing Hector. He dismantles his car at a mechanic's shop but fails to find a tracker until he has an epiphany and discovers it inside the gas cap. Obtaining an identical tracker from Caldera, he replaces the one in his gas cap, drains the battery of the one he removed from his car, and waits. Someone arrives at Mike's house to replace the tracker on Mike's car, believing the battery is dead. Mike follows him, and sees him drop the tracker off at Los Pollos Hermanos. Mike discovers that it was Gus Fring who warned him not to kill Hector, because Gus wants to take over Hector's drug business and believes the time is not yet right. Mike continues surreptitious disruption of Hector's drug shipments, while Nacho, who wants to save his father from Hector's plans to use the family's upholstery business as a drug front, switches Hector's heart medication with ibuprofen in the hopes of killing him without detection by inducing a fatal heart attack. Gus agrees to help Mike launder the $250,000 he stole from Hector by taking the cash and arranging for Madrigal Electromotive, a front company involved in Gus' drug business, to pay it back to Mike as monthly contracted security consultant fees. In a sign of Gus' respect for Mike and expectation of a future working relationship, he accepts no payment, and absorbs the cost of the withholding taxes Mike will have to pay, so that Mike won't sustain a financial loss as a result of the laundering.
Mike leaves his job as a parking lot attendant at the courthouse and performs actual consulting for Madrigal Electromotive. On his first site visit, he poses as an employee, but eventually reveals himself and begins to list the security violations he's uncovered. Lydia attempts to convince Mike to stop, but Mike indicates he'll keep doing inspections as a plausible cover for the payments he's receiving. When Lydia complains to Gus, he gives tacit approval for Mike to continue. At a job interview, Jimmy spots an opportunity to steal a valuable Hummel figurine, and calls Mike to enlist his aid. Mike refuses, forcing Jimmy to look elsewhere. Mike continues to attend group therapy meetings with Stacey. He realizes that Henry, another member of the group is lying about having a wife who died. Mike confronts Henry in a session, leading Henry to walk out and causing a temporary rift between Stacey and Mike. Mike escorts foreign engineers through the industrial laundry so they can evaluate the area underneath for suitability as an underground meth lab. Gus selects one, Werner Ziegler, to plan and oversee construction, and Mike arranges for housing and amenities that enable the crew to work at night and avoid detection. When the construction job falls behind schedule, Werner effects an escape and plans a rendezvous with his wife who arrives from Germany. Mike catches up to Werner, persuades him to have his wife return to Germany for her own safety, and then kills him.
The Breaking Bad fifth season episode "Say My Name" received highly positive reviews, with many critics singling out Jonathan Banks and Bryan Cranston for particular praise. The episode is recognized by many television critics as one of the best in the series, with TV Fanatic's Matt Richenthal giving "Say My Name" a five-star rating, and calling it "one of the best in series history." Seth Amitin of IGN gave the episode a 9 out of 10 rating, calling it "mind-blowing", but stating that "I hate to see Mike go out like that. He deserved more. I literally can't give this higher than a 9.0, it was just too sad of an ending." Alan Sepinwall of HitFix thought the episode was "a mostly tremendous episode of a drama", adding the death of Mike "is just a gorgeous, devastating scene", but he was unimpressed by the plotting that led to Mike showing any trust for Walt in that situation, writing that it was a contrived way to ensure that Walt would be in a position to kill Mike per the requirements of the overall show story.
Jonathan Banks has received several awards and nominations for his portrayal as Mike Ehrmantraut in both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. In 2012, He received a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series for his role in Breaking Bad. In 2013, he received a Critics' Choice Television Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor on Television and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series for Breaking Bad.
In 2015, he received a Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series and a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for Better Call Saul. In 2016, he received a Satellite Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film and a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. In 2017, he received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series and a Satellite Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film.
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- Richenthal, Matt (August 27, 2012). "Breaking Bad Review: Simply the Best". TV Fanatic. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
- Amitin, Seth (August 26, 2012). "Breaking Bad: "Say My Name" Review". IGN. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
- Sepinwall, Alan (August 27, 2012). "Review: 'Breaking Bad' - 'Say My Name': I like Mike". HitFix. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
- "Screen Actors Guild Awards 2012: Full list of nominees".
- Desk, Gold Derby News (May 22, 2013). "Critics' Choice TV Awards 2013: Complete list of nominees".
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