Breaking Bad is a story about a high school teacher’s drastic career change as well as the story about his identity and relationships with his family and business associates. Or is it? Is it not actually a story about a certain DEA agent, hunting down a mysterious drug lord that turns out to be his brother-in-law?
No other person was as obsessed with Heisenberg as Hank Schrader. His work ethic as well as his position in the family upped the ante in this suspenseful story. If it wasn’t for him, Walt’s journey would have been much smoother and thus more boring to watch.
He’s There From The Beginning Until The End
Many characters came and went in Breaking Bad, but Hank was there from the very start. In the pilot episode, he came to Walt’s birthday party, condescending and annoying. At first, he came across as very unlikable but ended up being one of the most liked characters in the show.
Hank met his death in “Ozymandias”, one of the highest-rated Breaking Bad episodes. It wasn’t the last episode, though, but rather the third-to-last. The last two episodes served as an epilogue and they weren’t half as dramatic as the episode in which Hank died.
His Invitation To Ride-Along Was The Catalyst
If it wasn’t for Hank, Walter would never have become Heisenberg. Not only did Hank take his brother-in-law on that fateful ride-along that later on reunited Jesse and Walt, having a man on the inside helped Walt eschew the authorities when needed.
And let’s not forget the moment in the pilot when Walt first realizes that there is a lot of money in cooking meth. If it wasn’t for Hank wanting to bask in DEA’s glory, the crowd at Walt’s birthday party wouldn’t be watching the news about the drug bust in the first place.
Hank Is The Hero
Breaking Bad is one of the rare series that features a villain as a protagonist. Whereas Walt is evil, Hank is good. For all intents and purposes, he is the hero of the show.
He truly believes he is changing the world for the better by working for the DEA and he truly cares about his family, even though his relationship with Marie had its ups and downs.
He Went Through Mental And Physical Hell
Whichever horrible situation Walt found himself in, he had it coming. More often than not, it was Jesse who got the beating instead of him, irrevocably traumatizing him along the way. Hank, too, paid the price. After shooting Tuco to death, he clearly wasn’t himself.
In season 3’s “One Minute”, he was cornered by the vengeful cousins and almost lost his life. He had to spend weeks in a wheelchair, feeling humiliated and helpless. Meanwhile, Walt was cruising along, getting himself into a relatively harmless fight here and there.
He Showed His Vulnerable Side
The more Walt got consumed by his alter-ego, the less of his authentic self there was to see. He was never acting like himself. He played a different role with everybody. With Skyler, he first pretended to be a confused dummy, only to transform into somewhat of a hostage-taker.
Hank also wore a mask in public. His bravado and optimism were clearly all an act, but every once in a while, he showed his vulnerable side. His character was explored in depths and it turned out that he is way more complex than it seemed at first. As his arc progressed, fans of the show felt increasingly sorry for him.
The DEA Is Walt’s Biggest Enemy
Every protagonist needs an antagonist. Walter White had a few: the cartel, Gus Fring, and the DEA. While the latter is not the deadliest, it was the biggest enemy.
Hank was the face of the DEA. The show would lose much of its suspense if the man hunting down Walt was some stranger.
He Kept The Plot Moving
Where would the plot go if it wasn’t for the persistent Hank? Needless to say, Walt was self-righteous and greedy enough to get himself in just enough trouble himself. But Hank brought the element of impending doom and made the situation even more complicated. There was the entire family to consider: Skyler was utterly crushed when she found out about Walt; not only because no one wants to be married to a drug lord, but because that knowledge created a rift between her and her sister.
Hank hunted down the RV and almost got Walt at that point. Gus Fring lay low for years before Hank sniffed him out. These are all instances of the times when Hank was the one moving the plot forward.
Hank’s Iconic Quotes
Sure, Walt is the one who knocks, but Hank has to be the show’s most quotable character. His range is incredible. He’s said some of the funniest lines: “I want Shania Twain to give me a tuggy. Guess what? That ain’t happening either.”
Then, on the other hand, his quotes always reflected how much integrity he had even as he was a dead man: “The name is ASAC Schrader and you can go f*** yourself.”
He Was Great At His Job
Despite failing to see all the obvious signs regarding Walt, Hank was actually an amazing cop. He thought outside the box, he was passionate, and he was always on the right track. It’s really tragic that he probably died feeling that he failed at what was the biggest case of his life.
When Walt was missing because of his ‘fugue state’, Hank actually managed to track him down. He was a great detective with unparalleled attention to detail.
He Saved Walt’s Life
He didn’t even know it, but Hank saved Walt’s life when he took out Tuco. Walt would also be dead if it wasn’t for Gus redirecting the Salamanca cousins in Hank’s direction when they were thirsty for Walt’s blood.
Hank always had his brother-in-law’s interests at heart, even when he found out the truth about him.