Mike Ehrmantraut

Michael "Mike" Ehrmantraut (/ˈɜːrməntrt/)[1] is a fictional character in Breaking Bad and its spinoff prequel Better Call Saul,[2] 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 2019, he briefly appeared in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, a film directed and written by Vince Gilligan, made by Netflix and a continuation of the original show. In 2019, he became the first character to appear in Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and El Camino.

Mike Ehrmantraut
Breaking Bad / Better Call Saul character
MikeEhrmantrautBCS.jpg
Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut in a promotional poster for Better Call Saul's fourth season.
First appearance
  • Breaking Bad:
  • "ABQ" (2009)
  • Better Call Saul:
  • "Uno" (2015)
Last appearance
Created byVince Gilligan
Portrayed byJonathan Banks
Information
Full nameMichael Ehrmantraut
Aliases
  • Mike
  • Pop
  • Dave Clark
Occupation
Children
  • Matt Ehrmantraut (son)
Relatives
  • Stacey Ehrmantraut
    (daughter-in-law)
  • Kaylee Ehrmantraut (granddaughter)
HomeAlbuquerque, New Mexico, United States
NationalityAmerican
BirthplacePhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

CreationEdit

The writers of Breaking Bad created the character of Mike Ehrmantraut as a substitute for Saul Goodman, when actor Bob Odenkirk was unavailable for the last of four planned Breaking Bad episodes of the second season because of a commitment to appear in How I Met Your Mother.[3] They cast Jonathan Banks because they admired his work in the 1980s police drama Wiseguy. Banks himself thought he would come on and do the role for the second season finale "ABQ", but had been impressed by working alongside Aaron Paul in that scene, and with the overall direction that Vince Gilligan had given for the episode once it aired. Banks considered his character close to that of Max Von Sydow's Joubert from Three Days of the Condor, an assassin that painted figurines on the side.[4] [5]

Character biographyEdit

In the Better Call Saul second-season episode "Gloves Off", it is implied that Mike is a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War. He subsequently became an officer on the Philadelphia police force. Mike had one son, Matt, who also became a police officer. Matt married Stacey and they had a daughter, Kaylee. In an extended flashback in the Better Call Saul episode, "Five-O", Mike is revealed as a crooked cop who took bribes. Matt was approached by other corrupt officers and asked Mike for advice; Mike advised Matt that not taking the money would label him a whistleblower, and endanger his life and family, so Matt took it. Matt's partner and another officer killed Matt because his hesitation caused them to think he might turn them in. Stacey and Kaylee left Philadelphia for Albuquerque after Matt's funeral. Mike identified the officers who killed Matt and arranged a similar ambush to kill both of them, after which he left for Albuquerque, allowing him to see Stacey and Kaylee.

Better Call SaulEdit

Season 1Edit

Mike works as a parking lot attendant at the courthouse. In his off-hours he engages in security and "muscle" jobs to help support Stacey and Kaylee. Jimmy frequently deals with Mike when leaving the parking lot, irritated with Mike's demands for payment or the right number of validation stickers.

Philadelphia officers involved in the investigation of two murdered cops interrogate Mike, who hires Jimmy to represent him. Mike has Jimmy create a diversion, enabling Mike to steal one detective's notepad to learn what they know. He finds that Stacey contacted them after finding money hidden in the lining of one of her suitcases. Mike admits to her that he was involved in corruption in Philadelphia, and confesses that he "broke" his son Matt by persuading him to go along. Matt's partner and another cop killed him for fear he would report them, so Mike retaliated by killing the two of them, then moving to Albuquerque to be near his daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Stacey accepts Mike's explanation and consoles him. The detectives have no solid evidence, and leave for Philadelphia without bringing charges. Mike aids Jimmy in proving the Kettlemans staged their own disappearance, then helps Jimmy recover and return the money the Kettlemans embezzled.

On one of his "muscle" jobs, Mike is employed by Daniel Wormald ("Pryce") to protect him during a drug deal with Nacho Varga. Mike has no weapon, but remains calm and controlled. When the payment is $20 short, Mike insists that Nacho pay Pryce full. After the deal is complete, Mike explains that he investigated Nacho beforehand and determined he was operating without the knowledge of his bosses in the Salamanca drug cartel, giving him an incentive to ensure that the transaction went smoothly.

Season 2Edit

Impressed by Mike's work for Pryce, Nacho approaches him with a request to kill his boss Tuco Salamanca, Hector's nephew. Nacho fears Tuco may learn about his outside drug deals, and that his erratic behavior will draw unwanted police attention to the Salamanca drug business. Rather than kill Tuco, Mike engineers a public altercation so that Tuco is sentenced to prison for assault. Hector convinces Mike to say that the gun Tuco was carrying was his to reduce Tuco's sentence, but Mike suspects Hector knows the truth.

Fearing Hector may exact revenge on Stacey and Kaylee, Mike attempts to disrupt Hector's drug trade by hijacking a Salamanca truck and stealing the $250,000 it carries, but allowing the driver to live. He intended for a "Good Samaritan" to free the driver, but learns from Nacho that when someone did stop to help, the truck driver called Hector first, and Hector's crew cleaned up the scene and killed the Good Samaritan.

Mike decides to kill Hector and procures a black market sniper rifle. As he prepares to fire at Hector, he is suddenly interrupted by the horn of a car.

Season 3Edit

Mike finds his moves have been tracked by Gus Fring, the owner of the Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant chain, which is part of the cartel's drug trafficking chain. Gus meets with Mike and explains that he does not want Hector dead until the time is right. He encourages Mike to continue to disrupt Hector's drug trafficking and attempts to pay him, but Mike does not accept the money. He asks for help to launder the $250,000 he stole, and Gus obliges by arranging for Madrigal Electromotive, the parent company to Los Pollos and a participant in its drug activities, to hire Mike as a contracted security consultant and pay him monthly consulting fees. Mike joins Stacey at group therapy sessions to help her overcome Matt's death.

Season 4Edit

Mike quits work at the parking lot and conducts actual security consulting at Madrigal. Lydia Rodarte-Quayle informs him the consulting contract was supposed to be a paper transaction, but Mike argues that his inspections provide plausible cover if anyone questions the payments. When Lydia complains to Gus, he tacitly approves of Mike's actions. At the group therapy sessions, Mike confronts another attendee over his lies, which causes a temporary rift between Stacey and Mike.

Conflict between the Salamancas and Gus's organization lead to Hector Salamanca suffering a stroke, and Gus discreetly pays for his recovery to the point where he recovers his mental faculties and can move his right finger. Gus initiates plans for a meth lab to be built under an industrial laundry, which is part of his plan to end reliance on cartel cocaine smuggled from Mexico. Mike arranges for structural engineers to secretly visit and assess the site while Gus silently observes. Gus selects Werner Ziegler to oversee construction of the lab, and Mike arranges for living quarters for Werner and his men during the months-long project. Mike takes to Werner, and tries to cover for him to Gus when Werner inadvertently reveals minimal details of the lab's construction to patrons at a local bar. When construction falls behind schedule, a homesick Werner escapes, intending to meet his wife at a nearby spa. Mike catches up to Werner and realizes that he has inadvertently revealed the existence of a construction project to Hector's nephew Lalo Salamanca, who has arrived to take over management of the Salamanca drug business. Gus orders Werner's death, and offers to send someone to do it, but Mike executes Werner himself.

Season 5Edit

Werner's death forces Gus to halt construction of the lab. Mike pays Werner's men in full for the half-completed job and sends them home. Gus presents a cover story to Lalo and Juan Bolsa, claiming Werner was working on a chilling system for the chicken farm, stole cocaine, and fled, after which Mike tracked him down and killed him. The story explains events of which Lalo is aware, and Lalo and Juan accept Gus's explanation and apology, but Lalo remains suspicious. Mike reacts with disgust at Gus's seeming lack of compassion for Werner and refuses to accept Gus's offer to continue paying him during the construction delay. Mike continues to struggle with Werner's death and drinks to excess. He becomes alienated from his family when he loses his temper with Kaylee, which leads Stacey to ask Mike to keep his distance.

A gang with whom Mike had a previous altercation beats and stabs him. He awakens at a ranch just inside the Mexico border, which has ties to Gus including a fountain dedicated to Max, where his wounds have been treated by Dr. Barry Goodman. He attempts to leave, but in his weakened state Dr. Goodman easily catches up. The doctor re-bandages Mike's wounds and recommends that he stay to recuperate. Mike calls Gus to ask what he intends, but Gus hangs up on him. Gus subsequently arrives to speak with Mike in person and asks for his help. Mike refuses to be Gus's "button man", killing only to further Gus's vendetta against the Salamancas. Gus tells Mike he wants Mike with him because Mike understands Gus's need for revenge. After Mike returns to Albuquerque, Gus puts him in charge of dealing with Nacho and his inside information on the Salamancas. Mike secretly points police to Lalo's car and its ties to the murder of the money wire clerk. After Nacho tips him off to Lalo's location, Mike uses a police radio to pretend to be an officer making a check on Lalo's license plate, which causes police to converge on Lalo's location while he is driving and detain him.

Mike spends time with Kaylee and tells Stacey he is over the recent events that angered him, saying he moved past them by deciding to play the cards he was dealt. Lalo is arrested under an assumed name and remanded. Nacho tells Mike that Lalo wants Nacho to burn Los Pollos Hermanos. Nacho and Gus destroy the interior of Gus's flagship restaurant then Gus sets an explosion that burns it down. Gus wants Lalo released, so Mike gives Jimmy details about the work he did to investigate to Lalo. Jimmy uses the information to accuse police of witness tampering, enabling Jimmy to win a motion for Lalo be released on bail.

Breaking BadEdit

By time of Breaking Bad, Mike still works for Gus, and does occasional work for Jimmy, who has begun practicing law under the name Saul Goodman.

Season 2Edit

After Walt allows Jane to die from a heroin overdose, Saul dispatches Mike to clean Jesse's apartment. Mike removes all traces of the drugs and provides Jesse advice that enables him to avoid incriminating himself when speaking to police after Mike leaves. When Jesse later goes missing Mike tracks him down and drives Walt to the location.

Season 3Edit

With Walt and Skyler White in the middle of a divorce, Saul has Mike spy on Skyler. Mike sees Walt arrive home, followed soon after by Tuco's cousins, who intend to kill Walt in retaliation for Tuco's death. Mike has Gus call off the cousins, since Walt is central to Gus's meth making scheme, and convinces them to target Hank, the DEA agent who shot Tuco. Gus then anonymously warns Hank, who is able to fight back. He survives the attack and kills one cousin, and Mike kills the other in the hospital.

The cartel disrupts Gus' meth distribution and he has Mike investigate. Mike kills the four cartel operatives sent to harass Duane Chow, one of Gus' chemical suppliers. He later hides in one of the Los Pollos Hermanos trucks during a drug run so he can learn the cartel's tactics and implement countermeasures that protect future drug shipments.

While Walt and Jesse have been cooking meth in the underground superlab, Jesse has become more unstable. He learns that two of Gus's local drug dealers were responsible for the death of his friend Combo and Tomás, the younger brother of Jesse's girlfriend Andrea. Knowing Jesse intends to kill the dealers, Walt acts first and runs them down with his car, then tells Jesse to flee. Gus keeps Walt on, but requires that he work with Gale again. Walt correctly fears that once Gale knows enough to take over, Gus will have Walt and Jesse killed. Walt tricks Mike into looking for Jesse in the wrong place, giving Walt time to meet Jesse and tell him to find Gale's address. Mike later escorts Walt back to the lab on the pretense of responding to a chemical spill, but Walt knows Mike is supposed to kill him. Intending to kill Jesse too, Mike instructs Walt to call Jesse and persuade him to come to the lab. Instead, Walt tells Jesse to kill Gale so that Gus will have to keep them alive to continue meth production.

Season 4Edit

Jesse kills Gale. Victor arrives soon after and brings Jesse back to the lab. Mike and Victor keep watch over Jesse and Walt while waiting for Gus. Knowing he was recognized at Gale's house, and hoping to demonstrate that he can still be useful to Gus, Victor begins producing a batch of meth, revealing that he has learned the process by watching Walt and Jesse. Gus arrives, kills Victor in front of Walt and Jesse, then tells them to get back to work. Mike increases security at the lab, including installing video cameras and personally standing watch over Walt and Jesse while they work.

Mike informs Gus they may be able to drive Walter and Jesse apart. Gus agrees, and Mike takes Jesse with him on dead-drop retrievals and other tasks. Jesse foils a prearranged attack on Mike, boosting his confidence and increasing his loyalty to Mike and Gus. After another Los Pollos Hermanos truck is robbed and the meth stolen, Jesse aids Mike in retrieving it. His competence convinces Mike and Gus to continue making use of Jesse, and he goes to Mexico with them for a meeting between Gus and the cartel leaders that is intended to end their dispute. Jesse produces a superior batch of meth on his own, and Gus offers to have him stay in Mexico to produce it for the cartel. Jesse is apprehensive, but the offer is a ruse. During a party at Don Eladio's house to celebrate the rapprochement, Gus uses a poisoned bottle of tequila to kill most of the cartel leaders, including taking the first drink himself to alleviate suspicion. Mike is shot helping Gus escape, and Jesse helps both the ill Gus and injured Mike make their way to pre-planned medical treatment. For the doctor Gus has hired, Mike's wounds are secondary to Gus‘s illness, and after Gus recovers, Mike remains in Mexico for several weeks while Gus and Jesse return to Albuquerque. While Mike is recovering, Walt engineers Gus‘s death, after which he and Jesse destroy the meth lab.

Season 5Edit

Mike learns of Gus's death, blames Walt, and intends to kill him. As Mike drives back to Albuquerque, he encounters Walt and Jesse, who explain why they killed Gus. They remind him that the security camera footage from the lab can implicate both Mike and them, and ask for his aid in destroying it. Mike tells them the recordings were stored on Gus's laptop, which is now in police custody. He aids Walt and Jesse to build and employ an electromagnet that wipes the laptop's data. This inadvertently leads the police to discover, elsewhere in Gus's possessions, hidden account numbers and access codes for the money Gus deposited offshore to be used to pay the members of his organization for their silence. They seize the accounts, making it likely that Gus's former employees will reveal Mike, Jesse, and Walt to the police.

Mike joins Walt and Jesse in a new organization, with Jesse and Walt producing meth in a mobile lab operated inside the tented homes of a fumigation company's customers. When Lydia suspects the DEA is tracking the methylamine Madrigal supplies, she provides Mike, Walt and Jesse with information on a train that includes a tanker car of methylamine. They arrange to steal a large quantity without detection, but Todd, an employee of the fumigation company who aids in the robbery, shoots and kills a young boy who witnessed it. Wanting no part of this type of brutality, Mike and Jesse sell their share of the methylamine to Declan, a drug dealer from Phoenix, while Walt produces the meth Declan distributes. Mike agrees to continue paying Gus's former employees from his share of the methylamine sale in order to ensure their continued silence.

The DEA identifies Mike's connection to Gus, but he removes evidence from his home and hides getaway money in a "go bag" at the airport, so a police search of his home turns up nothing. The police identify the attorney Mike has been using to make the payments to Gus's former employees, then locate the money he has been saving for Stacey and Kaylee. Mike, intending to flee, asks Saul to retrieve his go bag. Walt retrieves it instead, and meets with Mike. He demands the names of Mike's associates in exchange, so he can have them killed in prison to protect his identity. Mike refuses, and Walt shoots him with the gun from the go bag. After following a mortally wounded Mike to the edge of a river, Walt comes to the realization that he could have simply asked Lydia for the names. Walt begins to apologize, but Mike stops him, saying "let me die in peace."[6]

El CaminoEdit

Mike appears briefly in a flashback in the opening scene of the film El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. In a discussion that takes place shortly before Mike and Jesse leave Walt's meth business, Jesse asks Mike where he would go if he could start over. Mike says if he was younger, he would go to Alaska, an idea Jesse finds appealing. Jesse expresses a desire to make amends for past wrongdoing, but Mike cautions that starting over will make it impossible.[7]

ReceptionEdit

 
Jonathan Banks portrays Mike Ehrmantraut in both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul

The Breaking Bad fifth season episode "Say My Name" received critical acclaim, 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."[8] 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."[9] 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.[10]

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.[11] In 2013, he received a Critics' Choice Television Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series,[12] a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series,[13] a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor on Television[14] and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series for Breaking Bad.[15]

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. In 2019, he received another Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.[16]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ As pronounced by Ehrmantraut in "Mabel".
  2. ^ McFarland, K. M. (March 10, 2015). "Better Call Saul reveals the tortured origin of Mike Ehrmantraut". Boing Boing. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  3. ^ Hiatt, Brian; Hiatt, Brian (March 16, 2015). "Bob Odenkirk on Saul and Mr. Show's Non-Reunion". Rolling Stone.
  4. ^ Harris, Will (November 5, 2011). "Jonathan Banks". The A.V. Club. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  5. ^ Krzyzanowski, Jeanine (2010). "Q&A – Jonathan Banks (Mike "The Cleaner")". AMC Networks.
  6. ^ Molloy, Tim. ""Breaking Bad" star Jonathan Banks: "The bad guy's gotta die"". Yahoo! News. Archived from the original on August 30, 2012. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  7. ^ "Jonathan Banks Confirms 'El Camino' Role". ET Canada. September 22, 2019. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
  8. ^ Richenthal, Matt (August 27, 2012). "Breaking Bad Review: Simply the Best". TV Fanatic. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  9. ^ Amitin, Seth (August 26, 2012). "Breaking Bad: "Say My Name" Review". IGN. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  10. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (August 27, 2012). "Review: 'Breaking Bad' - 'Say My Name': I like Mike". HitFix. Archived from the original on December 19, 2012. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  11. ^ "Screen Actors Guild Awards 2012: Full list of nominees". CBS News. December 14, 2011. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  12. ^ "Critics' Choice TV Awards 2013: Complete list of nominees". Gold Derby. May 22, 2013. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  13. ^ Finke, Nikki (July 18, 2013). "2013 Primetime Emmy Nominations (LIVE)". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  14. ^ Moore, Debi (February 20, 2013). "2013 Saturn Award Nominees Announced". Dread Central. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  15. ^ "Los Angeles Times - We are currently unavailable in your region". www.tronc.com.[dead link]
  16. ^ Braxton, Greg (September 17, 2019). "Win or lose, Jonathan Banks is amped for the Emmys: 'Hell, it's a great meal'". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, CA. Retrieved October 12, 2019.

External linksEdit