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Look, the day I go in with this, it's the last day of my career, Marie. I'm going to have to walk in there, look those people in the eye and admit that the person I've been chasing the past year is my own brother-in-law. It's over for me. Ten seconds after I tell this story, I'm a civilian. Then how can we help Skyler when she comes to her senses? When I go in there, I'm bringing proof. Not suspicion. I can be the man who caught him, at least.
~ Hank planning to bring Walt down

Hank Schrader is the central antagonist of AMC's Breaking Bad and a supporting antagonist in Better Call Saul. He serves as a major antagonist in the first season, and the first half of the second season, the main antagonist of the second half of the second season, the secondary antagonist of the third season, a major antagonist in the fourth season, and the main antagonist of the middle of the fifth season. He is a DEA agent who seeks to take down the druglord Heisenberg, unaware that it is his brother-in-law, Walter White.

Hank is also faced with numerous threats from the rival drug cartels which takes a toll on Hank's mental health as the series progresses, and eventually starts taking more extreme measures to find "Heisenberg" and arrest him.

Hank is portrayed by Dean Norris.

History

Background

Hank is a special agent with the DEA, where he rose through the ranks to become the supervisor of all investigations handled by his Albuquerque office, under the watchful eye of ASAC George Merkert and SAC Ramey. He is married to Marie, with whom he has no children. He is close to his family-by-marriage, the Whites: Walt, his wife (and Marie's sister) Skyler, and their son Walter Jr. In contrast with the mild-mannered Walt, Hank is extroverted, ambitious and apparently fearless, eager to take on dangerous investigations to further his career. Beneath his tough, unflappable exterior, however, he struggles with some of his own vulnerabilities: he had cold feet when it came to marrying Marie, and despite his ambition he is afraid to move outside his comfort zone at work.

As a hobby, Hank home brews his own beer, which he calls "Schraderbräu". After he gets shot by the Salamanca cousins, he spends part of season 4 taking up mineral collecting, much to Marie's chagrin.

Breaking Bad

Season 1

Hank is first seen during Walt's fiftieth birthday party, where the attendees watch a news broadcast covering Hank's involvement in a local methamphetamine bust. Walt takes up Hank's offer to go on a ride along to another meth bust, and is allowed to inspect the meth lab's equipment. Hank's intended target, Jesse Pinkman, escapes before they can arrest him. Walt later makes Jesse, a former student of Walt's, his partner in a meth operation and enters the production side of Albuquerque's drug trade, using his scientific knowledge to cook meth of unprecedented purity.

As Walt establishes his product in the local drug scene, he begins using the pseudonym "Heisenberg". His signature "blue meth" soon gets the DEA's attention, and Hank begins investigating Heisenberg, completely unaware that he is actually searching for his own brother-in-law. He does discover that the equipment used to manufacture the meth came from a classroom at the high school where Walt teaches, but wrongly arrests the school's janitor.

In the first few episodes of the season, Hank frequently dominates and pokes fun at Walt. When Walt tells the family that he is suffering from inoperable lung cancer, however, Hank promises to be there for him, and to take care of Walter Jr. and Walt's unborn daughter should he die. He also takes Walter Jr. under his wing, trying to "scare him straight" when he believes the boy is smoking marijuana.

Season 2

When Walt goes missing after having been kidnapped by Tuco Salamanca, Hank, along with the rest of the family, attempts to find him. During his search process, he follows the evidence to Tuco's hideout, and kills him in a shootout. Unknown to him, Walt and Jesse had wounded Tuco moments before, and had barely escaped his detection. Hank believes that Tuco had ties to Heisenberg and questions Tuco's uncle, retired drug cartel boss Hector Salamanca, but Hector refuses to help, defiantly defecating on the interrogation room floor. Hank also questions Jesse about Heisenberg, but is unable to find any conclusive evidence connecting the two.

Hank's heroics in killing Tuco earn him a promotion at the office and, eventually, a transfer to El Paso, Texas. Hank is at first excited about the opportunity, but the trauma of the shooting, and his own insecurity about the higher-risk job, triggers several panic attacks. While in El Paso, Hank joins a group of fellow DEA agents, preparing to meet an informant named Tortuga, when they find a tortoise with the informant's severed head atop its shell, the words "HOLA DEA" painted on it. This triggers one of Hank's panic attacks, and he flees to his car. Removing the informant's head from the tortoise shell triggers an explosive, killing and wounding the DEA agents and Mexican police officers who were nearby. Although physically unharmed, Hank is emotionally traumatized and passes up the promotion, going back into his home office in New Mexico.

When one of Jesse's dealers, Badger, is arrested in a sting operation, Hank leans on him to set Heisenberg up. To throw the DEA off the trail, Walt's new attorney Saul Goodman hires a professional fall guy named James Edward "Jimmy In-N'-Out" Kilkelly to pose as Heisenberg and go to prison. Hank nearly discovers the truth when Badger botches the job by talking to the wrong man, but Walt uses his own car to temporarily block Hank's viewpoint under the pretense of innocently wandering onto his surveillance, buying Jesse enough time to fix the situation. The imposter is arrested, but Hank is convinced that the real Heisenberg is still at large.

Season 3

Nagged by feelings of inadequacy, Hank becomes obsessed with the Heisenberg case, and overly aggressive on the job. He starts a fight with two men in a bar whom he suspects of dealing drugs, narrowly avoiding being disciplined only because Gomez covers for him. He begins trailing Jesse, and finds the recreational vehicle that he and Walt use to cook meth; he traps Jesse inside, but is unaware that Walt is with him. To throw Hank off the trail, Walt has Saul's secretary call Hank and tell him that Marie is in the hospital, giving Walt and Jesse extra time to get rid of the RV. Upon finding out that the call was a hoax, an enraged Hank goes to Jesse's house and assaults him. Jesse is hospitalized, and Hank is suspended without pay. Jesse plans to press charges and ruin Hank's career, but ultimately decides to drop the charges after Walt lets him in on a lucrative deal cooking meth for cartel middle man Gus Fring.

Unknown to Hank, Tuco's cousins Leonel and Marco Salamanca have been following Walt, planning to avenge Tuco's death. Gus needs Walt to cook meth, so he tells them to kill Hank instead. Gus then anonymously tips Hank off about the hit moments before Leonel and Marco attack. Leonel and Marco shoot Hank several times, but Hank still manages to kill Marco by shooting him in the head, and severely injures Leonel by crushing his legs with his car. Hank survives the shooting, but his doctors tell Marie that he may never walk again. Marie, however, insists on putting Hank into expensive physical therapy. When told that insurance won't cover the treatment Hank needs, Skyler and Walt agree to pay for it without telling Hank. When Marie suggests taking care of Hank at home, Hank refuses, saying that he won't go home until he can walk again. Marie makes a bet that he can still get an erection, and if he does, he has to return home. She then proceeds to give him a hand job. The scene then cuts to Marie triumphantly wheeling Hank out of the hospital.

Season 4

During his recovery, Hank begins collecting minerals to pass the time. He becomes uncharacteristically harsh towards Marie, feeling despondent at being so dependent on her. He is approached by the Albuquerque Police Department to offer his insights into Jesse's murder of Walt's lab assistant Gale Boetticher, including a review of the man's lab notebook. He eventually formulates a theory that Gale was Heisenberg, and turns the evidence back over to the APD. At a dinner with Walt and his family, Hank says that Gale must have been a genius; Walt drunkenly replies that he thinks Gale was merely copying the real Heisenberg's work.

Suspicious, Hank has APD Homicide send over the evidence once more. This time he notices that Gale, a vegan, had a napkin from Los Pollos Hermanos, the fast food chain Gus uses as a front for his drug operations, and questions why a vegan would eat fried chicken. He procures a fingerprint from Gus while eating with Walter Jr. at one of Gus' restaurants, and finds that it matches a fingerprint found in Gale's apartment. When asked about this, Gus comes up with an alibi, but Hank remains suspicious. He even has Walt drive him to the restaurant and, when there, tells his alarmed brother-in-law to place a tracking device on Gus' car, which Walt tips off Gus to. The tracking device reveals nothing about Gus' whereabouts, however. Hank comes to suspect that the cartel's meth is manufactured at a laundry facility owned by Madrigal Electromotive, Los Pollos Hermanos' parent company, and tells Walt that he wants to check it out. To deflect Hank's investigation, Walt intentionally drives into oncoming traffic on the way there, and the two receive minor injuries. Hank's plans to investigate are cut short when he is placed under DEA protective custody, after Walt places a tip off — via Saul — of Gus' intentions to kill him. Hank then pushes Gomez to search the laundry facility, which fails to uncover anything incriminating, despite a few minor intriguing details.

Hector offers to give Hank information on Gus, but during the meeting merely taunts and curses him. This turns out to be part of Walt's ultimately successful plan to draw Gus in and kill him, thus eliminating an enemy and drawing Hank's attention away from Heisenberg.

Season 5

Following Gus' death, Hank is hailed as a hero for investigating him, and proceeds to pursue numerous leads in order to learn more about Gus' drug empire. He and Gomez search the decimated remains of the laundromat lab, and recover many pieces of evidence, including the security camera. He also recovers Gus' laptop in his office at the Albuquerque Los Pollos branch, but Walt and Jesse destroy it before he can uncover its contents. After sorting through various records and bank accounts associated with Gus, Hank becomes highly suspicious of Gus' enforcer Mike Ehrmantraut; Hank ultimately fails to get any information from him, however.

After Merkert is fired for mishandling the Fring leads, Hank is given his job. He and Marie celebrate with Walt and his family, and witness Skyler attempt to drown herself. Hank offers to let Walter Jr. and Walt's infant daughter Holly stay with him and Marie; he is unaware that Skyler had staged the suicide attempt to get the children away from Walt.

Hank's superiors eventually order him to drop the Heisenberg case. Undeterred, Hank tells Gomez to lean on Mike's nine recently incarcerated dealers and their lawyer for information on Heisenberg and his connection to Madrigal. When the dealers and the lawyer are murdered (at Walt's direction), however, the investigation is ruined. After Walt quits the meth business, the blue meth disappears from the streets, and Hank begins to believe that Heisenberg has eluded him for good. During a family dinner, however, Hank finds Gale's copy of Leaves of Grass in Walt's bathroom. Thumbing through the book while sitting on the toilet, he discovers a handwritten note from Gale to Walt and finally realizes that Walt is Heisenberg.

After Hank's realization, he leaves the Whites' house under the ruse of a stomach bug and suffers from a panic attack while driving home. After Walt realizes his copy of Leaves of Grass is missing, he finds a GPS tracking device planted on his car, resembling the one Hank used to track Gus. Walt confronts Hank in his garage, and Hank punches him in the face and accuses him of being Heisenberg, which Walt neither confirms nor denies. Walt reveals to Hank that his cancer has returned and that, even if Hank were to prove anything, Walt would never live to stand trial. When Hank demands that Walt have Skyler bring the children over to the Schrader house, Walt refuses, and tells him to "tread lightly".

Assuming that Walt forced Skyler to keep his secret, Hank meets her at a diner and asks her to divulge what she knows. When Skyler refuses to help, Hank tells Marie what is going on. Marie then confronts Skyler and is outraged to learn that Skyler knew what Walt was doing before Hank was shot. After breaking up an argument between the sisters, Hank returns home with his wife. Marie urges him to "get" Walt, but Hank tells her that he has no concrete proof yet (his theft of Leaves of Grass renders it inadmissible as evidence) and can't go to the DEA, because his career will be ruined once they find out that Heisenberg was right under his nose for more than a year. When he hears Jesse has been arrested, Hank goes to see him in jail, hoping to turn him against Walt. He attempts to talk Jesse into a deal, appealing to Jesse's resentment of his onetime partner. Jesse hates Hank more than he does Walt, however, and refuses to help.

Walt and Skyler arrange a meeting with the Schraders in which Walt maintains his innocence and insists that the kids stay with them. The Schraders refuse. Walt then gives Hank a DVD, in which Walt falsely implicates Hank as the mastermind behind the meth empire. In addition, Hank learns that Walt has paid for his medical bills after his shooting, which makes him an accessory after the fact. He later follows Jesse to Walt's house and stops him from burning it down. He convinces Jesse that they should work together. He brings Jesse back to his house and tapes Jesse's confession the following day. After Walt calls Jesse and asks to meet in downtown Albuquerque, Hank plans to have Jesse wear a wire tap in order to record the conversation. Jesse reluctantly agrees, even though he thinks that Walt will kill him during the meeting. Jesse abruptly backs out of the meeting, however, and tells Hank that he has a better way to get Walt: through his drug money.

Hank visits Saul's bodyguard Huell and manipulates him into believing that Walt has put a hit on him. Huell confesses that he and his partner Kuby helped move Walt's money from a storage unit with a rental van, but that he does not know where Walt hid it. Hank then checks with the rental company to learn that the van no longer has GPS. Hoping to learn the money's whereabouts, Hank and Jesse devise a plan to trick Walt. Jesse calls Walt claiming that he has found the money and threatens to burn it if he doesn't meet with him. Hank and Jesse follow Walt to the money's location via the cell phone signal. Upon seeing that nobody is there, Walt realizes that Jesse has tricked him and calls his associate Jack Welker, telling him to bring his gang of neo-Nazis to kill Jesse. He calls off the hit when he sees Hank and Gomez are accompanying Jesse. Walt gives himself up and lets Hank arrest him. When Jack's crew arrive, a gunfight erupts in which Gomez is killed and Hank is wounded. Walt begs Jack to spare Hank, offering him the entire $80 million fortune Walt has acquired in exchange. Hank refuses to beg for his life and asks Walt how such an intelligent man could be too naive to see that Jack had already made his decision. Hank then tells Jack to do what he has to do and Jack kills him with a shot to the head.

Quotes

So be on notice: We got new players in town. Now we don’t know who they are or where they came from, but they possess an extremely high skill set. Me personally, I think Albuquerque might just have a new kingpin.
~ Hank to the team on Heisenberg's arrival.
Since when do vegans eat fried chicken?
~ Hank to Marie on Gale Boetticher.
It was you. All along, it was you! You son of a bitch. You drove into traffic to keep me from that laundry. That call I got telling me Marie was in the hospital...that wasn't Pinkman. You had my cell number. You killed ten witnesses to save your sorry ass. You bombed a nursing home. Heisenberg. Heisenberg! You lying, two-face sack of shit!
~ Hank confronting Walter.
I swear to Christ..... I will put you under the jail.
~ Hank threatening Walt.
You're the smartest guy I've ever met, and you're too blind to see... He made up his mind 10 minutes ago.
~ Hank telling Walt that he accepts his fate.
Do what you're gonna do—
~ Hank to Jack before being executed.

Trivia

  • Blood type is O-Negative.
  • On the spec script for the Pilot, Hank's original surname was Weld.
            Breaking Bad Heroes

Jesse Pinkman | Hank Schrader | Steve Gomez | Skinny Pete | Badger | Kim Wexler | Old Joe | Marie Schrader | Nacho Varga

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