Mike Ehrmantraut

Created by Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan

“Shut the fuck up, and let me die in peace.”
—Mike  in the final season of Breaking Bad

Yeah, yeah. I know.

Neither AMC’s acclaimed Breaking Bad (2008-13), nor its subsequent spinoff/prequel Better Call Saul (2015-22) is a private eye show.

But a private eye character proves to be such a powerful and often disrupting force in both shows that his omission on this site comes close to criminal negligence.

Sort of like The Good Wife’s Kalinda Sharma.

Of course, fans of Breaking Bad (which details the rise and fall of high school chemistry teacher turned meth lord Walter White) all know what eventually happened to sometime private eye/fixer/assassin MIKE EHRMANTRAUT. But that wasn’t  a problem–he returned in Better Call Saul , which revolved around lawyer Saul Goodman, a sleazebag of epic proportions years before he ever met White.

So we get to see Mike, the former Marine , Vietnam vet and disgraced former Philadelphia cop (he’s not yet a private eye), meet cute with struggling attorney Saul (at the time still going by his real name of Jimmy McGill). Mike’s working as a parking lot attendant at the Albuquerque, New Mexico court house, and Jimmy has a chronic parking sticker problem), and get to follow Mike’s slow metamorphosis  into the coldly efficient troubleshooter and “cleaner” for druglord Gus Fring . His dealings with Walter White lay somewhere in the future.

Even better, though, is that in the pisode, “Five-O ( March 9, 2015 e), we finally learn exactly what caused Mike to be kicked off the Philly police force (previously, all we knew for sure was that it was something about him going rogue and meting out his own particular brand of justice). We also finally learn why his new motto is: “No half measures.”

The result is that Mike will pretty much do whatever it takes–up to and including murder–to obtain his objectives. He’s cold and ruthless; as grim and relentless as a shark, with a face like something you’d wipe your shoe on. Still, he won’t kill innocent bystanders, and he has a soft spot for young people and children–notably his granddaughter. The result is an oddly appealing character who seems to have an unshakeable, bedrock core of decency and honour that he can’t quite keep hidden—but he doesn’t let it get in the way of his often brutal and deadly work.

Yeah, he may kill you if you get in his way, but he’d probably feel real bad about it.

Maybe…

TELEVISION

  • BREAKING BAD
    (2008–2013, AMC)
    62 60-minute episodes
    Created by Vince Gilligan
    Starring Bryan Cranston as Walter White
    Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring
    Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman
    and  Jonathan Banks as MIKE EHRMANTRAUT
    Also starring Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Laura Fraser, Jesse Plemons
  • BETTER CALL SAUL
    (2015-22, AMC)
    63 60-minute episodes
    Created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould
    Writers: Thomas Schnauz, Gennifer Hutchison, Bradley Paul, Gordon Smith.
    Directors: Vince Gilligan
    Starring Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill
    Jonathan Banks as MIKE EHRMANTRAUT
    and Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring
    Also starring Rhea Seehorn, Michael McKean, Patrick Fabian, Michael Mando

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

THE DICK OF THE DAY

  • November 3, 2023
    The Bottom Line: Yeah, he’s a stone-cold killer, relentless as a shark, but admit it—you were rooting for him, weren’t you?
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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