Updated on August 8th, 2022 by Mark Birrell: As Better Call Saul draws to a close, one of the saddest goodbyes that fans will have to say is to Jonathan Banks' phenomenal run as Mike. Though the actor and the character may appear in flashbacks in some other project from Vince Gilligan & Co. further down the way, Mike's story is wrapped up quite conclusively by the events of Breaking Bad, and fans know that he's one of the many characters who doesn't get a happy ending. Nevertheless, the best Mike Ehrmantraut quotes from Better Call Saul can bring a smile to many fans' faces whilst also demonstrating why so many people revere Mike's wisdom in the show despite him being a doomed criminal.
Fans knew going into the show that the first meeting between Mike Ehrmantraut and Gustavo Fring would be one of Better Call Saul's most significant events. Fring tracks Mike from a distance at first after Mike plots to assassinate Hector Salamanca, who Breaking Bad fans know is at the center of Fring's elaborate revenge plot, with Mike and Fring first meeting face to face in season 3.
The season 2 finale teased Fring's imminent arrival with a mysterious note left on Mike's windshield reading "DON'T", which is in reference to Mike's plan to shoot and kill Hector. After pursuing Fring from a distance himself in the first 2 episodes of season 3, he and Mike meet properly and Mike's first words to Fring are this hilariously blunt question as he pulls out the note. Unlike Hector Salamanca, Fring hadn't really offended Mike by tracking him but he had presented him with a loose end that he characteristically stopped at nothing to tie up. It was the beginning of a beautiful, but terrible, friendship.
The first Mike-centric episode of Better Call Saul allows fans of Breaking Bad to see the iconic tough guy in an entirely new light, explaining his history as a police officer in Philadelphia and showing him being more vulnerable than he ever was during the events of Breaking Bad.
After bottling up at first, as fans would expect of him, Mike opens up to his daughter-in-law, Stacey, and reveals how he convinced his son to, as Mike puts it, "debase himself" by taking dirty money only for his associates to murder him anyway. This is the most emotional that the audience ever sees Mike, and when he says these words, he's practically weeping. It provides Mike with more character development in a few seconds than many TV characters get over the course of entire season-long arcs.
While still figuring out what kind of employee he wants to be for Gustavo Fring, Mike decides to strengthen his cover story as a security consultant for Madrigal Electromotive. To do this, he takes it upon himself to infiltrate a Madrigal warehouse, wandering around while testing their safety and security protocols.
During his self-guided tour of the warehouse, Mike stops off in a break room and chimes in on an ongoing argument between two co-workers regarding the commonly-fantasized-about match-up between martial arts icon Bruce Lee and boxing legend Muhammad Ali, saying "Does Bruce Lee have a gun? Because if he doesn't, it's Ali in 3 minutes or less." Mike's interjection is a pure distillation of his no-nonsense approach to violence of any kind and a reminder that, though he's often very quiet and reserved, one of his top skills is making conversation.
Sent to watch over Jimmy as he picks up Lalo Salamanca's bail money at the Mexican border, Mike saves Jimmy from a group of armed men sent to rob and murder him but they both end up stranded in the desert when the firefight leaves them without a functioning vehicle.
During one of their nights spent out in the wilderness, Jimmy lets slip that Kim will be worried about him as she knows what he was meant to be doing in the desert. Mike, who keeps his life of crime as far away from his family as possible, almost can't believe Jimmy's blunder and lets him know the reality of the situation now. It's a quietly chilling moment that marks a point of no return. When Mike states that someone is in the game, they're in the game.
This is one of Mike's first monologues on Better Call Saul and one of his best also. It comes after Pryce asks what the difference between a criminal and a "bad guy" is and shows just how aware Mike is of the consequences of all of his actions throughout Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad.
“I’ve known good criminals and bad cops. Bad priests. Honorable thieves. You can be on one side of the law or the other. But if you make a deal with somebody, you keep your word. You can go home today with your money and never do this again. But you took something that wasn’t yours. And you sold it for a profit. You’re now a criminal. Good one, bad one? That’s up to you.”
When they're stranded out in the desert, Jimmy is on the verge of completely giving up before Mike gives him a rousing speech about his family being the reason that he goes forward.
Mike's statements on this occasion sound a lot like things Walter White would say. He is a bit overconfident in claiming that his family will never find out what he does. The person he cares about the most is his granddaughter Kaylee, and since she is very young, Mike figures that she might never know about the details of his life. But, as any viewer who has also seen the events of Breaking Bad will know, things don't go as Mike plans.
Mike's first work as hired muscle in Albuquerque partners him with the highly incompetent Daniel "Pryce" Wormald, who employs Mike to protect him during several low-level drug deals with Nacho Varga in season 1.
When Pryce arrives to pick up Mike for another job during the first episode of season 2, he rolls up in a newly-bought, custom-painted, Hummer which Mike later describes as a "blinking neon sign of a vehicle that says drug dealer." Accordingly, Mike refuses to get in it and severs his ties with Pryce. Interestingly, however, Mike's absence only triggers a sequence of events that gets Mike further involved with Nacho and the rest of Albuquerque's underworld, leading him to Gus Fring, who adheres to Mike's belief in restraint.
Having reached his limit with Tuco's erratic behavior, Nacho Varga tries to hire Mike to kill Tuco but Mike isn't too sure that it's a good idea. This quote shows just how wise Mike is, even at the beginning of the show.
Though Nacho presents understandable reasons for wanting Tuco dead, Mike knows that it would only be the first in a long line of actions and reactions that would escalate over time. He's shown to be right, as even though Mike's much less violent (but still pretty violent) solution sends Tuco to prison, Tuco is simply replaced with Hector Salamanca, who is debatably even worse. After Nacho also removes Hector from the equation, he's replaced by Lalo, which leads to Nacho's undoing.
The relationship between Mike and his son's widow, Stacey, is one of the most interesting in the show, as Stacey benefits greatly from Mike's life as a criminal and can easily surmise that he is one, but she still maintains a strict distance from his work.
After telling Stacey the truth about her husband's death, revealing Mike's history as a dirty cop, she asks who killed her husband's murderers. Mike's characteristically matter-of-fact response lets the audience know a lot about Stacey, as the matter is never discussed between them again, nor is the source of Mike's mysterious new income.
Jimmy can't help but wonder what he got himself into after he almost gets himself killed while on the mission to collect Lalo's $7 million bail money and Mike gets philosophical with him in the aftermath and talks about choices putting people on roads that they are then effectively stuck on.
It's a similar speech to the one that he gives to Pryce in the first season about good criminals and bad guys, demonstrating that Mike is perhaps a little more aware of his doomed fate than he lets on. Jimmy interestingly tries to replicate this speech from Mike but finds that he completely lacks the gravitas to make it work, perhaps also revealing that the words aren't actually as deep or insightful as Mike makes them sound.