Charles Lindbergh McGill Jr., is a fictional character who appears in the crime drama television series Better Call Saul, a spin-off prequel of Breaking Bad. He is portrayed by Michael McKean, and was created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould.
|Better Call Saul character|
|First appearance||"Uno" (2015)|
|Last appearance||"Winner" (2018)|
|Full name||Charles Lindbergh McGill Jr.|
|Spouse||Rebecca Bois (divorced)|
|Home||Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States|
|Birthplace||Cicero, Illinois, United States|
Chuck was born in Cicero, Illinois and is the eldest son of Ruth and Charles McGill Sr. He is the older brother of fellow lawyer and titular character Jimmy McGill ("Saul Goodman"). Chuck is a successful attorney, who runs his own law firm, Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill (HHM), with partner Howard Hamlin. Chuck has become semi-reclusive and believes that he suffers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity. He was amicably divorced from his wife, Rebecca Bois, who was unaware of his EMS, a few years before the events of Better Call Saul.
Although in the first season he initially appeared supportive of Jimmy, Chuck harbored resentful feelings toward his brother. From the second season onward, Chuck transforms into Jimmy's main antagonist. His betrayal of and opposition to Jimmy, and his subsequent death, serves as a catalyst for Jimmy's transformation into Saul Goodman. Chuck's life and death also deeply affect Howard Hamlin and Kim Wexler, Jimmy's law partner and wife.
Chuck's character development and McKean's performance throughout the first three seasons received critical acclaim, with many critics claiming that McKean gave the best performance on television throughout 2017.
Conception and developmentEdit
Actor Michael McKean had previously worked for Vince Gilligan as the recurring character Morris Fletcher first shown in The X-Files episode "Dreamland", and the two had kept in touch since about potential projects, though during that time, much of McKean's work was in New York City for Broadway theatre while Gilligan was in Los Angeles for television and could not work anything out. When Gilligan had contacted McKean about acting in Better Call Saul, McKean accepted the role just knowing the bare minimum on Chuck's electromagnetic sensitivity, having been both a fan of Breaking Bad and trusting Gilligan.
When filming of Better Call Saul started in 2014, McKean had to initially split his time between that and performing in All the Way, a Broadway play that coincidentally also starred Bryan Cranston, who had played Walter White from Breaking Bad. When McKean's casting had been announced in April 2014, he had been deliberately misnamed to play a character called "Dr. Thurber", which McKean says was based on humorist James Thurber. Chuck's real name – Charles Lindbergh McGill – was inspired by the aviator Charles Lindbergh.
In interviews, McKean has stated that while Chuck did make efforts to foil Jimmy's attempts to get ahead as a lawyer, it wasn't always planned that Chuck would resort to underhanded tricks. He described Chuck's motivations as a person who, until the onset of his electromagnetic sensitivity, had "followed all the rules", and then suddenly saw all he had slip away and could not understand why, while someone like Jimmy that bent and ignored the rules was thriving. To aid in their portrayals of the characters, McKean and Odenkirk worked out ideas about Chuck and Jimmy's relationships with their parents and the way their parents would have treated them.
McKean stated that with Gilligan and Gould's approach, that they are generally told at the start of the season what they would like to see the characters go, but only in two or three episodes before filming, having firmer ideas about specific actions, but that he trusts the showrunners were doing the right thing with the character. McKean spoke of when he got his "death call" from Gilligan and Gould, letting him known that Chuck would die in the third season finale "Lantern", around the time of filming of the seventh episode "Expenses". McKean had expected the call based on the character's arc, and had no regrets or issues with it, since "that Chuck did not belong in Jimmy’s universe by the time he becomes Saul Goodman, so I knew that it was very possible".
Chuck McGill was born in 1944 and raised in Cicero, Illinois, just outside Chicago. He graduated as valedictorian from Francis Xavier High School at the age of 14, making him the youngest graduate in the history of that school. He later attended the University of Pennsylvania, and graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center. After clerking at both the Delaware Court of Chancery and the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Chuck joined George Hamlin's solo practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Over the next twenty-three years, the two men, joined later by George's son Howard, built up their law firm, Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill (HHM) into one of the largest law firms in the Southwestern United States. Early in his career, Chuck excelled in criminal law, famously arguing and winning the precedent-setting case of State v. Gonzalez.
Ten years before the start of the series, when his younger brother Jimmy faced serious charges after defecating through the sunroof of a romantic rival's BMW – unaware the man's children were in the backseat – Chuck defended him on the condition that Jimmy abandon his career as a con artist and work a legitimate job in HHM's mailroom. During this time, Jimmy was inspired by Chuck's skill in the legal profession and decided to become a lawyer himself. Jimmy secretly completed his college degree, attended a correspondence law school, and passed the bar exam. He also became friendly, then romantically involved, with Kim Wexler, a legal student who also worked in the mail room and became an associate attorney at HHM. Around the time of his divorce from Rebecca Bois, Chuck took a leave of absence from HHM after allegedly developing electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Jimmy, who had quit HHM to practice law after he passed his bar exam but was refused a job by the firm, took care of Chuck, including buying and delivering his groceries and newspapers.
Jimmy continues to help Chuck with daily chores at his home. While Chuck no longer works directly for HHM, he is still a senior partner. Howard attempts to buy out Chuck's share of HHM with a token payment, but Jimmy demands Howard pay Chuck in full, which Howard is unprepared to do.
Jimmy stages a fake rescue of a billboard worker to drum up publicity for his own firm, and removes Chuck's local newspaper from his daily delivery so Chuck will not know. Chuck resorts to stealing the neighbor's paper (leaving a $5 bill as payment) which leads the police to arrive, confront Chuck, break into his home, and tase him. Chuck is taken to the hospital and when Jimmy arrives, the doctor proves that Chuck's illness is psychosomatic. Jimmy refuses the doctor's recommendation to have Chuck committed to a mental institution and insists he can care for Chuck at home.
Jimmy discovers that the Sandpiper Crossing retirement community may be overcharging its elderly residents. He collects shredded documents from the trash and starts piecing them together at Chuck's place. Chuck is impressed with Jimmy's legal instincts and steps in to help, discovering key documents that prove Jimmy is correct. Jimmy and Chuck attempt to get Sandpiper to settle but their lawyers refuse, so the McGills continue to collect evidence. Chuck's enthusiasm for the law is rekindled and he casually steps outside to get documents from Jimmy's car without taking his usual electromagnetic hypersensitivity precautions, surprising them both. Chuck suggests the case is too large for the two of them and they should get HHM's help. Howard agrees to take the case, and offers Jimmy a small of counsel fee and a percentage of the judgment or settlement, but cuts him out of active participation. Jimmy surmises that Chuck secretly used Howard to get Jimmy off the case, and that Chuck did the same thing after Jimmy passed the bar exam but Howard refused to hire him as an attorney at HHM. Jimmy confronts Chuck, who tells Jimmy he doesn't consider him a "real lawyer" and says Jimmy is still the same con man from Cicero (referring to his former alias, "Slippin' Jimmy"). Jimmy cuts ties with Chuck and arranges for Howard to take over Chuck's care.
Howard hires Ernesto as an aide for Chuck, and Ernesto takes on most of the tasks formerly seen to by Jimmy. As the Sandpiper case grows, HHM brings in another firm to assist, Davis & Main. Davis & Main hires Jimmy due to his familiarity with the case and rapport with the clients. Chuck become suspicious after Jimmy uses questionable tactics to gain new class action plaintiffs. Jimmy creates a television ad to attract more plaintiffs and airs it without approval. Cliff Main and the partners at D & M reprimand him, as do Howard and Chuck, and Jimmy decides to quit the firm. Howard relegates Kim, who knew of Jimmy's ad but did not inform the partners at HHM, to entry-level document review work. To regain Howard's favor, she tries to land a new client and eventually gains interest from Mesa Verde bank. Howard is happy to have the bank's lucrative legal work, but gives Kim no recognition for securing the client. Kim takes Jimmy's advice and leaves HHM to start her own firm, co-located with his. Kim initially secures Mesa Verde as a client, but Howard and Chuck succeed in winning them back.
Chuck's electromagnetic hypersensitivity symptoms reappear as the result of his trip to HHM's offices to meet with the Mesa Verde representatives. When Ernesto calls Jimmy for help, Jimmy offers to stay with Chuck overnight and uses the opportunity to alter documents Chuck has prepared for a new Mesa Verde branch application. When the state banking board reviews the application, it discovers the errors, which result in a long and expensive delay. Mesa Verde's president and counsel take the bank's business to Kim. Chuck immediately suspects Jimmy sabotaged him. Kim infers Jimmy's guilt and tells him if he left any evidence, Chuck will find it. Jimmy goes to the copy store where he altered the documents, intending to bribe the clerk for his silence. Ernesto is already there, having investigated copy stores throughout Albuquerque on Chuck's behalf. Ernesto leaves to pick up Chuck and bring him back to speak with the clerk in person. Jimmy bribes the clerk, then waits across the street for Chuck to arrive. Chuck attempts to question the clerk, but his electromagnetic hypersensitivity causes him to collapse and hit his head on the counter. Jimmy hesitates about whether to reveal his presence, but enters the store, administers first aid, and has the clerk summon an ambulance. At the hospital, Chuck wonders how Jimmy was on the scene so quickly, and Ernesto falsely claims to have called him out of concern for Chuck's health. Chuck later fakes a major mental breakdown, causing Jimmy to confess to the document tampering in an effort to calm Chuck down. After Jimmy leaves Chuck's home, Chuck reveals a hidden voice recorder, which he activated before Jimmy's arrival.
Chuck promises Jimmy consequences for his Mesa Verde fraud. Chuck and Howard discuss the recording, which Howard says is not admissible in court, but Chuck says it has a use. He arranges for Ernesto to hear it, then swears him to silence. As Chuck expected, Ernesto tells Kim, who then tells Jimmy. Unsure of Chuck's plan, Kim wants Jimmy to let Chuck make the first move, but Jimmy ignores her advice, breaks into Chuck's house and destroys the recording. Chuck's private investigator and Howard reveal themselves as witnesses to Jimmy's break-in, which is cause for him to be arrested. Jimmy is prosecuted and Chuck suggests to the assistant district attorney that Jimmy can avoid prison by confessing to the break-in and making the confession available to the state bar association. With Jimmy facing potential disbarment, Kim offers to help him fight the charges, and Jimmy agrees.
During a meeting to discuss the proceedings, Chuck admits to Kim that he has a copy of the recording and intends to use it at Jimmy's hearing. Kim's response to Jimmy indicates that obtaining this admission from Chuck was central to their planned defense. Kim cancels the repairman Chuck had called to fix the door Jimmy destroyed during the break-in. Mike Ehrmantraut poses as a repairman and fixes the door while also photographing Chuck's home to document his bizarre living conditions. The hearing room is prepared for Chuck's arrival, including turning off all lights and electronic devices, and removing cell phones. Jimmy invites Chuck's ex-wife Rebecca to the hearing, claiming Chuck is in distress and needs her help, but Chuck sees it as an attempt to rattle him before he testifies. When Jimmy cross-examines Chuck about his electromagnetic hypersensitivity, Chuck suspects a trick and accuses Jimmy of standing near him while holding his cell phone. Jimmy then reveals that he had Huell Babineaux secretly place Jimmy's cell phone battery in Chuck's pocket, and Chuck carried it for more than an hour without noticing. The suggestion that his illness is mental rather than physical unnerves Chuck, who launches an extended tirade in which he vents all his frustrations about Jimmy. Chuck realizes, too late, that his outburst has shocked the entire courtroom, including the committee.
Jimmy is given a year's suspension, but not disbarred. Chuck shutters himself in his home, and Rebecca tries to get Jimmy to help but he refuses. Howard suggests Chuck consider Jimmy's suspension a victory and move on and Chuck agrees. The possibility that his illness is psychosomatic causes Chuck to begin seeing Dr. Cruz, who aids him in coping with his symptoms to the point where he can walk outside and perform chores such as grocery shopping without taking his usual precautions.
Jimmy tries to avoid losing money he prepaid for television ads by producing commercials for other businesses. He meets with his malpractice insurer to obtain a refund on his premium, and finds that his policy must remain in effect during his suspension in case he is sued over work he did previously. Jimmy feigns an emotional breakdown about Chuck's condition, which prompts the insurer to review Chuck's insurance coverage.
The insurance company's representatives meet with Howard and Chuck and inform them that HHM's malpractice rates will rise substantially unless another attorney is assigned to constantly supervise Chuck. Chuck wants to fight, but Howard decides that Chuck has become too much of a liability and encourages him to retire. Chuck sues HHM, hoping this will force Howard to back down. To his surprise, Howard calls his bluff by buying out Chuck's share of the partnership, using personal funds and loans to make the first of three $3 million payments. Howard then announces to the firm that Chuck has retired, effective immediately.
Jimmy tries to make amends with Chuck, but Chuck coldly cuts ties. Chuck's hypersensitivity symptoms begin to re-emerge, and he becomes obsessed with finding the device that is causing his electric meter to run. He stacks his appliances outside, tears the walls open to remove wiring, and destroys the meter after failing to discover why it will not stop. Having reached his breaking point, Chuck intentionally knocks over a gas lantern and sets his home on fire, which ends up killing him.
Jimmy is shocked at Chuck's death and believes himself to be at fault because of his interaction with the insurance company. Howard believes Chuck's death was his fault because he forced Chuck to retire. Upon hearing this, Jimmy allows Howard to shoulder the blame and regains his usual upbeat demeanor. Chuck leaves most of his estate to his ex-wife, with only a $5,000 bequest to Jimmy, which is just enough to prevent him from contesting the will. When Kim picks up Jimmy's inheritance check, Howard gives her a letter Chuck wrote to Jimmy. Kim eventually gives it to Jimmy, who reads it in her presence. The letter is undated, but was apparently written while Jimmy was working in the HHM mailroom. The letter praises Jimmy's efforts to leave his conman past behind and work an honest job, but is also vaguely condescending. Jimmy calls it "nice", but Kim is visibly upset by it. Jimmy learns HHM is struggling financially because of the payments due to Chuck's estate, and because recent events caused them to lose clients. Jimmy tries a "tough love" speech to rouse Howard back to action. During his suspension, Jimmy manages a cell phone store, then develops a lucrative side business selling prepaid phones to unsavory customers under the alias "Saul Goodman".
A year later, Jimmy attends his reinstatement hearing and is surprised to learn that his suspension will be continued because he failed to address the conflict with Chuck during questioning from the panel members. Jimmy appeals, and in preparation for the hearing Kim helps him fake several public displays of grief over Chuck's death. At the appeal, Jimmy begins to read from Chuck's letter, then stops and gives an impromptu speech in which he vows to be worthy of the McGill name if reinstated. Jimmy's appeal succeeds, but he reveals to Kim that the speech was an insincere performance and he plans to practice law as Saul Goodman.
Chuck appears in two flashbacks. In the first, set 10 years before the show's 2003 present, the staff at HHM congratulate pre-illness Chuck after he argues obscure case law to successfully close a lucrative case for the firm. The reception Chuck receives serves as a catalyst for Jimmy's subsequent legal studies, which he carries out in secret. In the second, Chuck appears with Jimmy before the board of bar examiners during the admission of new attorneys in 1998, and provides Jimmy's ritual introduction and character reference. Following the ceremony, Chuck attends a celebration for Jimmy at a karaoke bar, and brings Jimmy home after the party.
Chuck does not appear, but his life and death continue to affect Jimmy, Howard, and Kim. Jimmy has fully embraced the Saul Goodman alias he used while selling prepaid phones, telling Kim that continuing to use it gives him an instant client base for a criminal law practice. When Kim tries to talk him out of practicing law as Saul, Jimmy indicates that it is necessary if he is to escape the shadow left by Chuck's professional legacy. Chuck becomes Kim's posthumous brother-in-law when she marries Jimmy, a tactic that enables Jimmy to tell Kim the truth about his work as Saul by attaching spousal privilege to their conversations.
Howard proposes hiring Jimmy at HHM. When Jimmy brings up his history with the firm, Howard assures him that the feud was between just Jimmy and Chuck. Jimmy thanks Howard, but is unsettled by the reminder of his past, and refuses Howard's offer. Jimmy is so unnerved that he irritates Howard by using bowling balls to vandalize his car and prostitutes to disrupt his business lunch with Clifford Main. When Howard confronts Jimmy and rescinds his offer, Jimmy responds by lambasting Howard for causing Chuck's death and angrily tells him that as Saul Goodman, he has grown too big for the constraints of a job at HHM.
When Howard sees Kim at the courthouse, she tells him she quit Schweikart and Cokely and her work for Mesa Verde Bank so that she can concentrate on pro bono criminal defense cases. Howard tells Kim about Jimmy's recent harassment campaign against him and assumes Jimmy is behind Kim's decision. Kim laughs at Howard, says she is insulted by the idea that she cannot decide for herself, and tells him he does not understand Jimmy. Howard angrily tells Kim that Chuck really did know Jimmy better than anyone else.
Michael McKean's portrayal of Chuck McGill has received critical acclaim.
The first season episode "Pimento" received critical acclaim, with many critics praising the performances from Bob Odenkirk and Michael McKean. Roth Cornet of IGN gave the episode a 9.0 rating; concluding: "Better Call Saul revealed the betrayal that may very well be at the heart of what turns Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman, as this stunningly crafted story continues to unfold."
The third season episode "Chicanery" received universal acclaim, with some critics considering it to be a series-best. Terri Schwartz of IGN awarded the episode a perfect 10 out of 10, describing it as "the best episode of Better Call Saul to date". It currently holds a perfect 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 9.5/10 based on 12 reviews. The site consensus reads: "The war between Jimmy and Chuck comes to an unprecedented climax in the heartbreaking, sober, and defining 'Chicanery', an episode that clearly cements Better Call Saul as essential television." TVLine named Michael McKean the "Performer of the Week" for his performance in this episode, writing it was the "finest showcase yet for his fascinatingly layered performance as Jimmy's brother Chuck McGill." Donna Bowman of The A.V. Club, who gave the episode an "A" rating, praised the courtroom scene, saying "it isn’t just to give us the satisfaction of a courtroom drama, the neat ending where the truth comes out. The brilliance of this structure is to give us a slow-motion view of the heavens falling, an outcome methodically pursued by Kim and Jimmy, which nevertheless seems to give them no satisfaction."
Many critics were disappointed when McKean, who was said to have given "one of the best performances by anyone in TV all year", failed to secure an Emmy nomination in 2017 while his co-star Jonathan Banks did. For his performances as Chuck, Michael McKean won a Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2018 at the 22nd Satellite Awards. McKean later received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series nomination for his guest appearance in the fourth season.
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