- Chuck’s suicide in Better Call Saul was largely driven by his pride and the devastating loss he experienced in court at the hands of his brother Jimmy.
- Chuck’s chronic illness and his struggle to accept that it was psychosomatic added to his emotional turmoil and contributed to his decision to take his own life.
- Chuck’s suicide had a profound impact on Jimmy’s character, catalyzing his transformation into Saul Goodman and fueling his criminal activities, as well as sparking a feud with Chuck’s former firm HHM.
The suicide of Chuck McGill was one of the most shocking moments Better Call Saul, and despite the show finishing on Netflix many viewers will wonder why Chuck killed himself in season 3. Jimmy “Saul” McGill’s older brother Chuck (Michael McKean) died by his own hand in a house fire, and the show clearly sets up the reasons why. Chuck was one of several new characters introduced in Better Call Saul, Chuck became a favorite for many viewers, which made the episode where he killed himself all the more difficult to watch.
Instead of throwing in endless cameos from Breaking Bad right off the bat, Better Call Saul cemented itself by adding plenty of great new supporting characters in the Breaking Bad universe. One of the most significant was Charles M. McGill. While Jimmy once loved his brother dearly, Chuck did end up becoming a sort of villain in his life, not believing that his formerly criminal sibling deserved to practice law at a high level. While their feud was intense, it still came as a shock when Chuck decided to take his own life in the season 3 episode “Lantern”.
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Better Call Saul: Why Chuck Killed Himself In Season 3
Chuck’s Pride Led To His Suicide
It’s important to understand that the reason Chuck killed himself in Better Call Saul was largely pride. Chuck was proud of his legal abilities and knowledge, and his intellect in general. Chuck was also not used to losing, and when Jimmy managed to not only beat Chuck in court but embarrass him publicly, Chuck was devastated. This devastation was compounded by Jimmy manipulating things until Chuck was deemed a liability and forced out of his own firm. While this paints Jimmy as a villain, it’s worth remembering his actions were retaliatory.
A defeat at the hands of Jimmy might not have made Chuck’s death in Better Call Saul inevitable, but added to his emotional turmoil was his chronic electromagnetic hypersensitivity, which had him housebound for long periods and was a contributing factor to why Chuck killed himself. Chuck began to realize that his illness was most likely psychosomatic, but the idea that his problem was all in his mind was a conclusion he didn’t want to accept. Once Chuck is forced to retire from HHM, and has one more fight with Jimmy, seemingly cutting ties for good.
This sets the stage for the Chuck McGill suicide. By this point, he’s on the edge, and a final bout of his illness pushes him over. The final image of him sitting alone in his house with his lantern perched perilously on the desk is the image of a defeated man who has given up. Chuck’s life ended at his own hand via an intentional house fire, but his presence certainly never left the Breaking Bad spinoff, continuing to make it better. The Better Call Saul Chuck death continued to shape Jimmy’s Better Call Saul arc throughout the show.
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How Chuck’s Suicide Shaped The Conclusion Of Jimmy’s Story
The Death Of Chuck McGill Had A Profound Impact
Naturally, the death of a central character like Chuck (who is also Jimmy’s own brother) was always going to cast a significant shadow over the rest of Better Call Saul‘s seasons. In many ways, the suicide of Chuck in Better Call Saul also acts as the catalyst for Jimmy’s full transition into Saul Goodman. Jimmy begins his criminal activities in earnest after Chuck’s death, with the guilt and secrecy involved in his brother’s passing likely helping to shape Saul’s character for the worse.
As a key example, when Chuck’s old firm HHM offers Jimmy a job but then rescinds it, the blame for the Better Call Saul Chuck death surfaces again and causes Jimmy to lean further into his Saul persona, beginning a series-long feud of cons and counter-cons against HHM. The Chuck McGill suicide in Better Call Saul season 3 is, therefore, a central turning point for the show and Jimmy himself. So, while the reasons why Chuck killed himself are important, the impact of Chuck McGill’s suicide is more pertinent in the grand scheme of the show and Jimmy’s character.
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How Michael McKean Interprets Chuck’s Death
The Chuck McGill Actor Blames Ego For The Character’s Suicide
The truth behind why Chuck kills himself in Better Call Saul is devastating no matter the conclusion fans can come to. However, the way actor Michael McKean viewed the scene makes it all the more tragic. McKean (via EW) agreed that his courtroom loss to Jimmy as well as him being let go from HHM certainly contributed to the vulnerable state of mind he finds himself in. These defeats at the hands of Chuck’s black sheep brother Jimmy are made worse by Chuck’s ego.
As McKean explains, “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.” Yet as low as he is, with his illness exacerbating the situation, McKean admits he thinks Chuck wasn’t completely aware of what he was doing and the finality of his decision on Better Call Saul.
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Why The Better Call Saul Creator Decided To Kill Off Chuck
The Chuck McGill Suicide Wasn’t Always The Plan
The Chuck McGill suicide was arguably the biggest shock of Better Call Saul season 3. Funnily enough, Chuck’s fate wasn’t determined early on in the show. Rather, creator Peter Gould admitted in an interview with EW that the team didn’t decide on the Better Call Saul Chuck death until season 3. Gould said that the decision truly came after Jimmy and Chuck’s big confrontation in Better Call Saul season 3, episode 5, “Chicanery,” in which he felt that the character had a tough choice to make.
Rather than give Chuck a chance at redemption and change, Gould believed that the character would’ve ended up taking a different route. While the events of his expulsion from HHM and illness are the main reasons Chuck killed himself, Gould takes it a step further by citing his final conversation with Jimmy as a “catalyst.”
“It’s only after he has that terrible scene with Jimmy that Chuck’s downward spiral begins. So to me, that means — however important what happened at HHM might have been — somehow it’s the scene with Jimmy that’s the trigger,” Gould said. The Chuck McGill suicide arguably impacted Better Call Saul‘s three final seasons, changing his brother Jimmy permanently and affecting his character arc in a major way.
Better Call Saul
Set in times before, during, and after Breaking Bad, the AMC crime drama spinoff follows the trials and tribulations of criminal lawyer Saul Goodman (Odenkirk) as he looks to make a name for himself at his firm located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The show digs deeper into the events that crafted Saul and the repercussions of his actions.
- Release Date
- February 8, 2015
- Bob Odenkirk , Rhea Seehorn , Jonathan Banks , Patrick Fabian , Michael Mando , Giancarlo Esposito
- Story By
- Peter Gould
- Breaking Bad