Charles M. McGill, known as Chuck, portrayed with absolute brilliance by Michael McKean, was more than just Jimmy’s older brother in Better Call Saul. He was a legal genius, the epitome of pride in one’s accomplishments and legacy. But the very foundation of Chuck’s world crumbled when his younger brother, whom he never really believed deserved to practice law, outsmarted him in court. The public embarrassment, combined with his eventual ousting from the firm he co-founded (HHM), tore at Chuck’s fragile psyche.
“It’s important to understand that the answer to ‘why did Chuck kill himself?’ has to do with pride… Chuck was devastated.”
But there was more to his deteriorating mental state. Chuck had been living with a condition called electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Confined mostly to his home, it was later revealed that his condition might have been more psychological than physical. The realization that it might all be in his head was another devastating blow to his ego, and after a climactic fallout with Jimmy, it seemed Chuck had lost all his moorings.
Ripple Effects: Chuck’s Death and Its Consequences
Chuck’s untimely death did more than just leave fans heartbroken; it fundamentally altered the trajectory of Jimmy’s life.
“Naturally, the death of a central character like Chuck… was always going to cast a significant shadow over the rest of Better Call Saul‘s seasons.”
In fact, the aftershocks of this tragic event became the catalyst that propelled Jimmy into embracing his Saul Goodman persona. The guilt, grief, and shadows of conspiracy around Chuck’s passing only intensified Jimmy’s descent into criminality. Notably, when Chuck’s old firm, HHM, played mind games with Jimmy regarding a job opportunity, it only exacerbated his transformation into Saul, setting off a series of retaliatory moves against the firm.
Actor’s Insight: Michael McKean on Chuck’s Final Moments
Michael McKean, who breathed life into Chuck, has his own perspective on the character’s tragic end. While acknowledging the blows to Chuck’s ego — his courtroom loss to Jimmy and his departure from HHM — McKean emphasizes a more introspective angle.
“If you’re a person who has never really felt like he was in the wrong about anything, then it can really seem like the world is giving you the middle finger.”
McKean believes that, deep down, Chuck might not have fully comprehended the permanence of his actions in the moments leading to his death.
Behind the Scenes: Why The Showrunners Decided on the Tragic Twist
Interestingly, Chuck’s fate was not set in stone from the show’s inception. It was during Season 3 that the creators felt the need for this drastic turn, especially after a monumental showdown between the McGill brothers in the episode titled “Chicanery”.
Peter Gould, the series creator, sheds light on the matter:
“It’s only after he has that terrible scene with Jimmy that Chuck’s downward spiral begins… that means — however important what happened at HHM might have been — somehow it’s the scene with Jimmy that’s the trigger.”
This choice by the showrunners was more than just a shocking twist; it became the central event that would steer the course of Better Call Saul‘s subsequent seasons, forever changing the essence of Jimmy McGill.