Vince Gilligan’s captivating crime drama Breaking Bad is renowned for its intense plots, thrilling action, and especially – its dynamic, often morally ambiguous characters.
While antiheroes Walter and Jesse take much of the spotlight with their escapades, DEA Agent Hank Schrader stands as one of the key figures. This memorable character plays his role terrifically as the boisterous, upstanding counterpart to his brother-in-law, Walt.
Despite some great writing and acting coaxing viewers to root for the everyman-turned-druglord, one can’t help but appreciate the likable, tough, and humorous Schrader. As the show progresses, so does his depth, and viewers feel for him when the going gets tough. Still, this is a relentless man who threatens Walt’s work and way of life. Thus, it’s also quite easy to be aggravated by some of his actions.
Felt Bad For Him: His Isolation At El Paso
Though it may seem like a minor issue – especially given his promotion – it was rough seeing Hank go from “Big Cheese” status as ASAC of Albuquerque to marginalized figure in El Paso. From cartel informant Tortuga to the agents themselves, Hank doesn’t seem to be taken seriously and is even ridiculed for his inability to speak Spanish.
While Hank seems set on getting the job done, agents stand around during a stakeout, talking behind his back and shrugging off his promotion to being “politics.” To add to this, Hank then gets treated to a depraved and “explosive” message from the cartel, thoroughly shaking him up.
Hated Him: His Bar Fight
Early on in season 3, things are at a relative low point for several characters in the show. In addition to Walt being kicked out by Skyler, Hank has something of a crisis with the added pressure of work.
Following the disturbing incident in El Paso, a shaken-up Schrader faces the decision to return there, or pursue Heisenberg. Given the mounting frustrations and stress, it’s understandable that Hank might snap.
Still, he does manage to showcase a pretty repellent side of himself with his snippiness towards both his partner and his wife. He tops this off by starting a fight in a bar completely unprovoked.
Felt Bad For Him: His Panic Attacks
Despite the “tough guy” demeanor, Hank’s only human – and one that endures quite a bit of trauma throughout Breaking Bad. This partly comes at the hands of Walt, whose bamboozling and other hijinks produce some unfavorable experiences for Hank.
Even before the shocking revelation that his own brother-in-law is Heisenberg, he’s been in some intense shootouts – nearly being killed in one – and saw a severed head become a makeshift bomb. Understandably, this has led to panic attacks that look uncomfortably disorienting and tense.
Thanks to the realism of some convincing acting and cinematography, these are particularly tough to watch.
Hated Him: Beating Jesse Senseless
In another instance of breaking through his poised persona, Hank snaps on Jesse after being tricked into thinking his wife Marie was in a car accident to deter him from searching their RV. Of course, this is understandable to a degree, given the circumstances.
Still, it’s pretty tough to watch Pinkman just get relentlessly beaten into a pulp, especially given that he was just the accomplice in this whole ploy. And it’s all the more repellent that he storms into his own house when doing so.
Felt Bad For Him: Getting Shot And Nearly Killed By The Cousins
Tuco’s cousins had one thing in mind after the death of their relative – vengeance. After word reached them that Hank had taken him out, they were out for blood. Gus’ attempt to draw their attention from Walt to his DEA brother-in-law very nearly gets the unsuspecting Hank killed.
His wits and training allow him to narrowly escape with his life after fighting off the Cousins. Regardless, it’s a brutal scene to witness the normally tough, upbeat Hank get hobbled and put in such a dangerous situation.
Hated Him: Going Rogue And Hunting Down Mike Ehrmantraut
Hank is nothing if not driven, and this often means Walt and his cohorts must constantly watch their backs, so to speak. There’s plenty of spying, interrogation, and tailing going on from both the DEA and a rogue Hank throughout Breaking Bad.
Yet, it gets particularly irritating to see the elusive Mike’s frequent run-ins with these agents just when he’s broken things off with Walt’s drug empire. This aggravation only increases when we learn that Hank has seized his earnings as well as gotten around the restraining order.
Felt Bad For Him: Getting False Information About His Wife Being In An Accident
This is emotional enough given the circumstances – a man being fed false information about a critically injured spouse. But seeing the usually tough and battle-hardened Hank fall into a panic attack when hearing the news makes this scenario all the more tragic.
This is especially the case when Hank reunites with Marie and begins sobbing tears of joy and relief after learning she’s alright. Even though it ends on a positive note, it’s quite the emotional moment; especially given that his own brother-in-law is the culprit for this trauma.
Hated Him: Trying To Get Skyler To Fess Up About Walt’s Dealings
The ongoing interrogation of Mike was intense enough, but when it really gets “close to home” is when Hank becomes privy to Walt’s identity as Heisenberg – prompting him to talk with Skyler.
What begins as a friendly effort to aid and protect their family quickly shifts to a clear plot to obtain the evidence needed to arrest Walt. Obviously, Hank has to do what he has to do given his role as a DEA agent.
Regardless, it’s a tough scene to watch for all sorts of reasons – not the least of which is a clearly shaken Skyler get pressed by Hank to such a degree.
Felt Bad For Him: Meeting His End At The Hands Of Jack’s Gang
Even if Hank, through the lens of the antihero Walt, tends to be framed as the antagonist of Breaking Bad, it’s a heartbreaking moment to see this proud, strong agent fall at the hands of Jack and his criminal gang of neo-Nazis. The implications of this cruel scenario would be somber enough.
But adding the emotional element of Walt’s close relationship to Hank as a brother-in-law, and his despondent reaction after he’s shot in front of him? It’s truly a tearjerker.
Hated Him: Arresting Walt
After watching all the trials and tribulations Walt’s been through to provide for his family, having it seemingly end so abruptly by a smirking Hank makes for an irritating moment, to say the least.
Of course, Hank was in the right to arrest the malicious Heisenberg – especially given Walt’s insane kill count. It’s a great completion to Hank’s story arc. Still, many wished to see this man succeed after spending several seasons and much screen time getting to know him.
At the very least, most didn’t favor seeing him thrown behind bars by way of his arch-nemesis and brother-in-law. Of course, viewers know of the left turn the show takes shortly after this – but in the moment? It was quite easy to detest the arrogant Hank.