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Mike Ehrmantraut is one of the most popular characters in the Breaking Bad universe, and for good reason. He first caught the attention of fans on the original series and in more recent years has been a major crossover character in Better Call Saul.

Fans adore Mike because he’s a no-nonsense kind of guy who’s unafraid to express his true opinion to some of the most dangerous men in existence. Plus, we all know Mike’s a badass — he’s a skilled sharpshooter and effective enforcer for the cartel. As a former cop, these skills make total sense.

But even though Mike hasn’t completely lost his moral compass like Walter White eventually did, he’s still one of the most delusional characters on the show. It all makes his death that much more tragic.

Mike Ehrmantraut
Mike Ehrmantraut | Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Who is Mike Ehrmantraut?

Prior to the events of Breaking Bad, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) was a police officer in Philadelphia for 30 years and his son, Matt, also worked on the force. Mike accepted bribes and participated in protection rackets and convinced his son Matt to do the same. Eventually, Matt’s partner and their sergeant murdered Matt because they didn’t trust him.

Mike blamed himself for Matt’s death and began drinking heavily. But he also sought revenge and retaliated by murdering the officers behind the crime. After the murders, Mike left his hometown and went to Albuquerque, where Matt’s widow Stacey and her daughter Kaylee had recently relocated.

Mike is a skilled criminal

His extensive knowledge of law enforcement makes Mike an effective assassin and “cleaner” for the cartel. In Better Call Saul, Mike becomes involved with Jimmy McGill when he needs a lawyer to defend him against Philadelphia detectives investigating the murder of the two cops.

He’s also recruited to work for Gus Fring during this time period, though he resists joining the drug distributor in his war against the Salamancas. Gus continues pursuing Mike as his main enforcer because he knows Mike “understands revenge,” which is Gus’s goal. He can also see how Mike is endlessly loyal and exceptionally good at his job.

His methods are ultimately flawed

The most tragic part of Mike’s story is that he has good intentions but bad methods. He keeps pursuing money as a way to make amends for Matt’s death and saves all his fortune for Stacey and Kaylee. But because earning income in such dangerous ways, his plans backfire.

“I do what I do so they can have a better life,” he tells Jimmy when they’re stuck out in the desert. “When it’s my time to go, I’ll go knowing I did everything I could for them.”

It’s obvious to fans, especially following Werner Ziegler’s death, that Mike is full of self-loathing and guilt that no amount of murder or money can solve. Mike seriously hurts his relationship with his daughter-in-law after a disastrous attempt at attending a survivor’s support group, where he lashes out at another attendee.

Mike has more in common with Walter White than he thinks

It’s no secret that Mike despises Walter White and thinks he’s arrogant. In Breaking Bad, Mike refuses to work with him and calls Walt “a ticking time bomb.” Plus, Walt is the person who winds up killing Mike at the end of the series.

Fans love Mike because he has a good heart and loves his family. He can see through people’s lies and is always one step ahead of most other characters on the show. But the one person Mike cannot see clearly is himself. He could have found a legitimate career in private security and supported Stacey and Kaylee that way. Instead, he entered into a dangerous life of crime that ultimately got him killed. He was delusional to think his methods could work.

Mike’s tragic demise was just another avoidable death on Breaking Bad.