In Breaking Bad Walter White ordered the death of all Mike's men (and his lawyer) in prison.

Gus was already exposed, Mike was already dead and his men in prison never saw or dealt with Walter or Jessie. So why order their death? How were they a threat to Walter?

  • 1
    Abundance of caution. – sanpaco Sep 28 '20 at 18:03

He dealt with some of them

Some of the men certainly interacted with Walter and Jesse. This included the manager of the laundry who saw Walter and Jesse enter and leave the basement regularly, and who could have identified them.

This is the manager who was persuaded by Steve Gomez to allow a search of the premises when it was suspected by Hank of being the location of the meth lab, and nothing was found.

Here he is talking to Steve Gomez

Manager talking to Steve Gomez at the Laundry

Here he is in prison talking to Mike, who was pretending to be a paralegal accompanying his lawyer:

Manager in prison clothes talking to Mike

Why kill all the men?

Walt is managing risks here. Yes he could kill just those that he directly interacted with. However:

  • Walt can't know for sure who could identify him or not. All the DEA need are a name, a face or some identifying characteristics of Walt. Mike used to observe and tail Walt frequently because he didn't trust him, he probably used his crew to do some of this. All it might need is a comment that Mike used to regularly take cellphone calls from someone Mike called 'Walter'.

  • Even if someone cannot directly identify him, who knows what kinds of evidentiary trails can be started from them. If the DEA are trying to build a case against Walt in the future, who knows what kinds of evidence would start from clues these men give away when cutting deals with the government.

From Walt's point of view, better to avoid the risk entirely. From his perspective he has to protect himself and his family, and its only money he has to spend.

Finally, it becomes clear that Heisenberg's reputation is enhanced by the act of killing all these men in a simultaneous action like this. Its not clear whether Walt predicted this, but perhaps he also considered how it might make him feared.

  • Aha I didn't know that was one of Mike's men in prison.... Wasn't a selective kill (only people Walter had contact with) more efficient? – Wesly Sep 28 '20 at 16:00
  • @Wesly I've added a section to the answer to address this. – iandotkelly Sep 28 '20 at 16:20
  • @Tetsujin ... thanks for the improved picture – iandotkelly Sep 30 '20 at 11:49
  • Most welcome :-) – Tetsujin Sep 30 '20 at 13:00
  • @Wesly Beyond the question of being exposed to law enforcement, Walter may also have been concerned about revenge actions against himself by those who were previously loyal to Mike. So, he ordered them all killed to ensure no one was left to come after him. – Steve-O Sep 30 '20 at 13:31

Apart from Ian's answer, I want to add that the underlying reason is the also because of loyalty.

It's a common practice to pay the families of the men in prison, provided these men keep their mouth shut. That's how heavyweights buy their men's loyalty: I am paying you , so you don't rat out.

Now with Gus and Mike out of the scene, Walt needs to buy that loyalty from those men, else they have no reason to play along with him. And Walt didn't want to pay those guys anymore. He wanted to break the cycle and end all possible threats that might lead to him. Source

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