Besides watching one man’s journey from upstanding citizen to hardened criminal, part of Breaking Bad‘s richness was the array of villains that the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, gave us. While Walter White, a.k.a. Heisenberg, ultimately became the most villainous of them all, he surrounded himself with all sorts of shady characters on his rise to the top of his crystal meth throne.
While some of these characters were infinitely more dangerous than others, they all ran across Heisenberg at some point or another over the show’s run. In honor of all those bad guys and the memorable moments that they had on the show, let’s rank Walter White’s rivals based how much of a threat they posed to his empire.
12. Emilio Koyama
Low-level meth dealer and childhood acquaintance of Jesse Pinkman, Emilio (John Koyama) might not have been close to the threat of a Tuco or a Gus, but the guy was still dangerous. Walt and Jesse were both marked men in the eyes of Emilio for encroaching on his business and bringing the DEA along. However, what Emilio failed to account for was Jesse’s new partner’s keen knowledge of chemistry and what phosphine gas will do to a person trapped inside an RV.
Threat level: 4
11. Krazy-8 Molina
Former partner of Emilio Koyama, Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega) was not only a serious danger because of his murderous tendencies, but because of his link to the DEA. Unbeknownst to Walt or Jesse, Krazy-8 was working on the side as a criminal informant. Not exactly the kind of person you want to sidle up to when trying to break into the crystal meth business. While Emilio might have perished in the RV, Krazy-8, of course, managed to survive long enough to drum up some sympathy from Walt while being held prisoner in the basement. It’s only when Walt discovers Krazy-8’s plot to kill him with a glass shard that he takes his first big step toward the dark side, strangling Krazy-8.
Threat level: 5
Oh, Declan (Louis Ferreira), we hardly knew ye. We didn’t see much of Declan before he met his demise at the hand’s of Todd’s gang leader uncle, Jack. What we did learn about Jack, though, is that he was Gus’ competition and thus became Walt’s competition. Declan wasn’t so much of an enemy to Walt, but his control over the Arizona meth distribution meant that he would be a threat to Walt’s empire unless he worked out a deal. It’s probably fair to assume that Declan was a fairly bad dude, considering the business he was in, but he didn’t hang around long, so we can’t really be sure of exactly how bad.
Threat level: 5.5
9. Lydia Rodarte-Quayle
Just like all of Walter White’s business associates, Lydia (Laura Fraser) eventually becomes an enemy that must be sent on a one-way trip to Belize. A powerful business woman in Houston, she was the gatekeeper for the ocean of methylamine for Gus’ drug empire and later took up with Walt. Inexperienced in the shadier doings of the crime business, Lydia makes her first misstep by attempting to hire a hit-man to take out Mike. She makes mistake number two when she attempts to plant a GPS tracker on a barrel of meth in order to get herself out of the business. Against Mike’s wishes, Walt holds off on killing Lydia, possibly feeling some sort of empathy for the single mother. Lydia might not have been as outright terrifying as Walt’s other enemies, but she was just as sinister, and not at all smooth about it, either. After her and hanger-on Todd’s hit by the Neo-Nazis fizzles, she finally succumbs to Walt’s trademark sleepy-time ricin tea.
Threat level: 6
8. Hector Salamanca
Physically, Hector (Mark Margolis) posed no threat at all. If the guy started ringing that bell while Tuco or the Salamanca cousins were around, though, somebody was going to end up dead. A once powerful member of the Juárez Cartel, Hector was mute and confined to a wheelchair by the time he encountered Walt. While it became apparent in the episode “Grilled” that he didn’t trust Walt and Jesse, he had even more hatred towards the DEA and Gus Fring, which of course Walt would later use to his advantage.
Threat level: 6.5
7. Mike Ehrmantraut
Former cop, fixer for Saul Goodman, and lover of pimento cheese sandwiches, Mike’s (Jonathan Banks) working relationship with Walter White was rocky at best. Mike first came to know Walter White while working as the muscle for Gus Fring and later, of course, to foolishly go into business with Walt and Jesse. While Mike and Walt initially didn’t seem set out on destroying one another, their relationship was often one of constant conflict, with Walt seeking more and more power and ignoring Mike’s advice about how to handle business. Ultimately, when Mike realized what a “ticking time bomb” Walt truly was, it was too late and his refusal to give up his “nine names” cost him his life.
Threat level: 7
6. Todd Alquist
Todd (Jesse Plemons) was as cruel as he was careless. He and Jesse immediately got off to a bad start after he shot an innocent child during the train heist, and it all went downhill from there. The former Vamonos Pest Control worker and Lydia fanboy helped Walt and Jesse cook meth, much to the disapproval of Jesse, before taking over as cook after Walt briefly retired. Being that Todd was a dope at most things and not that trustworthy, Walt should have known better than to get involved with his uncle’s prison gang, but when you gotta kill nine guys in prison before they rat, you can only be so picky about who does the job. Unfortunately for Walt, teaming up with Todd and, in turn, his Neo-Nazi uncle proved to be a terrible mistake in the end.
Threat level: 7.5
5. Jack Welker
White supremacist gang leader and all-around dirtbag, Jack (Michael Bowen), comes in contact with Walt and Jesse through his nephew Todd. While Walt only needed Jack’s crew to take out Mike’s nine guys in prison, he ended up becoming Walt’s competitor and turned poor Jesse into his slave cook. He might not have been as sophisticated as Gus Fring or as smart as Walt, but every bone in his body was evil, as evidenced by the execution of Hank and Gomez in the New Mexico desert.
Threat level: 8
4. Leonel and Marco Salamanca
Cool, calm, and 100 percent ruthless, Leonel and Marco Salamanca (Daniel and Luis Moncada) — or “the cousins” — served only one purpose: kill whoever they were told to kill. The well-dressed terminators were the nephews and groomed executioners of Don Hector Salamanca, and had no qualms about lopping off a criminal informant’s head — Tortuga — or setting a truckload of illegal immigrants on fire simply because one of them recognized their skull adorned boots. While the cousins aren’t exactly the most vocal of bad guys — in fact, I don’t think they ever uttered a word — they were incredibly punctual about making their appointments. Hell-bent on avenging their cousin Tuco’s death, the cousins only spare Walt at the last second when Gus Fring sends a text and later reveals that it was Hank who actually pulled the trigger that put the bullet in Tuco’s head. Being the employee of the month DEA agent that he is, though, Hank comes out on top, dropping Marco in the parking lot while Leonel succumbs to Mike Ehrmantraut while recovering in the hospital.
Threat level 8.5
3. Hank Schrader
DEA agent and Schraderbrau brewmaster Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) might not be an enemy to Walter White, but to Walt’s alias, Heisenberg, he’s public enemy number one. Amazingly, Walt is able to give Hank the slip regarding his side business up until the last season, with Hank unknowingly saving him on more than one occasion. An incredibly likable character, it’s only when Hank connects the dots from Walt to deceased drug chemist, Gale, while sitting on the john that he realizes his brother in-law’s villainous ways and goes after Walt with everything he’s got. Rather than kill Hank, Walt deals with him in a truly backstabbing manner, framing Hank with a DVD linking him to the criminal activity in the meth business. In one of the series’ most intense episodes, “Ozymandias,” Hank is finally dismissed as a threat after Neo-Nazi Jack shoots Hank and his partner Gomez as Walt watches on in horror.
Threat level seasons 1-4: 5
Threat level season 5: 9
2. Tuco Salamanca
Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) might not be the most powerful villain that Walt dealt with during his meth career, but he was without a doubt the most unstable. Doing business with Tuco was about as relaxed as juggling kegs of gunpowder and Walt and Jesse were constantly on edge around the guy. Part of the Juárez Cartel and nephew to Hector Salamanca, the drug boss was incredibly dangerous because of his mood swings, and could go from laughing one second to smashing in the face of one of his own men — R.I.P. No-Doze — for simply speaking out of line. While Jesse suffered a nasty beat down at the hands of Tuco, Walt was given slightly more respect. If it weren’t for Hank showing up and unknowingly saving Jesse and Walt at Tuco’s desert cabin, they surely would’ve ended up buried in the backyard.
Threat level: 9
1. Gustavo Fring
There really could be no other character to take the top villain spot other than Gus Fring. He’s more powerful than Walt, and far more more experienced. Fantastically played by actor Giancarlo Esposito, Gus had been both a successful meth dealer and fast food businessman since the 1980s, using his popular chicken restaurants as a cover for criminal activity. Gus was not only better at the drug game than Walt — as Gus would have never partnered himself with an unreliable meth addict like Jesse — but was as ruthless as they came. His cold-blooded demeanor was driven home to Walt and Jesse in the episode “Box Cutter,” when he disposed of one of his henchmen, Victor, like he was simply swatting a fly. Following this, it became all too clear to Walt that he was disposable and that he had to take out Gus if he wanted to ever rise above his “meth lab manager” position. While Gus may be a more experienced businessman than Walt, Walt’s more resourceful and delivered the final blow in “Face Off.”
Threat level: 10