- "You are not a real lawyer! University of American Samoa for Christ's sake? An online course? What a joke! I worked my ass off to get where I am! And you take these short cuts and suddenly you're my peer?! You do what I do because you're funny and you can make people laugh?! I've committed my life to this! You don't slide into it like a cheap pair of slippers and then reap all the rewards!"
- ―Chuck McGill.
Charles "Chuck" McGill, Jr. was Jimmy McGill's older brother. He is a named partner at one of Albuquerque's most prestigious law firms, Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill, which he co-founded along with Howard Hamlin's father. A brilliant man who held himself and others to high ideals, Chuck firmly believed that doing the right thing is the only true path to success.
Chuck claimed to suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), an unusual affliction garnered under mysterious circumstances, which made it challenging for him to lead a normal life.
Throughout the first season, Chuck is seen as a protagonist, up until the penultimate episode, where he is revealed as an underlying antagonist of Better Call Saul, as most of the obstacles Jimmy faces can be traced back to Chuck. Despite this, however - Chuck seemed to genuinely love his brother, but believed his alleged nature makes him unfit to be a lawyer. In contrast to this presumed affection, Chuck later claimed that he never cared that much about Jimmy. He serves as the primary antagonist of Season 1, one of the two primary antagonists of Season 2 and Season 3.
After suffering a major relapse of his EHS, Chuck committed suicide by setting fire to his house.
Chuck McGill was born in Cicero, Illinois and was the eldest son of Ruth and Charles McGill Sr. Chuck seemed to have a decent childhood and good relationship with his parents, though it appears that his younger brother Jimmy was favored over him more. Chuck once helped with the finances for his father's store and discovered that Jimmy had stolen money over the years, to his father's disbelief. He eventually became a very successful lawyer and established a partnership with Howard Hamlin's father, moving to the city of Albuquerque to co-found the law firm of Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill (HHM).
Jimmy was constantly arrested for playing con games, and Chuck got him out of every situation. In 1992, Chuck helped Jimmy avoid charges including property damage, assault, and a possible sex offense. Chuck traveled to Cicero to visit Jimmy at his request through their mother. Jimmy begged for Chuck to use his knowledge of legal loopholes to make the charges disappear. Although originally reluctant, Chuck agreed to help him after Jimmy stated that his life would be over if he did not get out of the situation. Chuck warned Jimmy not to make a fool of him if he got back out, but Jimmy promised to change. ("Nacho").It can be assumed that Chuck convinced Jimmy to move to Albuquerque with him to make a living through legitimate means, giving him a job as a mail room clerk at HHM. Chuck reveals that he was very proud of Jimmy when he finally straightened out. However, when Jimmy became a lawyer, Chuck didn't feel he deserved it and sabotaged his chances of getting a job with his firm ("RICO") ("Pimento"). At some point, Chuck was married to Rebecca McGill, a famous violinist whom he seemed to have a decent marriage with, however, they are now divorced as Jimmy confirms that Rebecca left Chuck ("Witness").
During the following years, Chuck started suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity, causing him to leave HHM in early 2001. He started living in an electricity-free home, relying on gas lamps for light. Before entering the house, visitors have to place all of their electronics in the mailbox and "ground themselves" (remove the static charge from their body). Chuck is sometimes seen wearing what Jimmy calls a "space blanket," presumably to shield himself against static electricity ("Uno").
After being house-ridden for a year and a half, Chuck begins receiving checks for $26,000 from HHM. Jimmy thinks it is in Chuck's best interest to buy out his part of the company ($17 million), as he believes that Chuck will not be returning to work due to his illness. However, Howard wants to continue paying Chuck long term, saying that it is an "extended sabbatical". On his way out, Jimmy is followed by Howard, who tries to pass along some documents for Chuck, which Jimmy declines ("Uno").
Jimmy goes to visit Chuck, who insists he’s going to get better and return to HHM. Chuck rejects Jimmy’s pleas to demand a buyout from his partners, objecting that the firm would probably have to liquidate to raise that much cash, putting more than a hundred people out of work. Jimmy tells him his public defender work isn't going to keep both of them afloat, which just results in a lecture from Chuck about how the experience of helping people is more important than money. Chuck reveals that Howard stopped by and gave him a check for $857, the first of a new weekly stipend ("Uno").
When Jimmy comes home wasted and dropped on the couch, Chuck is disturbed to see that he didn't leave his phone in the mailbox, which he does normally. Chuck has to pick up the phone with tongs and throw it out of the house to feel better. Chuck also sees that Jimmy has with him a hospital bill he paid for broken legs of the twins, Lars and Cal.
The next morning, Jimmy wakes up and sees Chuck sitting near him, wrapped in his "space blanket". Realizing that his brother has seen the hospital bill, Jimmy promises that he isn't returning any customs from the past (referring to Slippin' Jimmy). Jimmy then asks for Chuck to take off the "space blanket". Chuck reluctantly takes it off, only to put it back on when Jimmy leaves the room ("Mijo").
Jimmy arranges a publicity stunt in which he pretends to save a worker from falling off his own billboard. As planned, Jimmy is regarded as a hero and is featured in an article in the Albuquerque Journal. Jimmy visits Chuck but hides the newspaper that reported the "rescue" to keep him from seeing it. Chuck congratulates Jimmy on his new success but is oblivious to the stunt. Chuck notices that one of his daily newspapers is missing, which Jimmy dismisses. After Jimmy leaves, a suspicious Chuck painstakingly hurries to his neighbor's house and collects their copy of the Journal, in which Chuck reads about the stunt ("Hero").
Chuck's theft of the newspaper does not go unnoticed, leading the police to lay siege to Chuck's house. Due to his condition, Chuck insists they leave behind all electrical equipment, to which they knock down the door and taser him. Chuck is taken to the hospital and panics when he wakes up surrounded by electrical equipment. Jimmy arrives and disables the surrounding equipment to restore him to full consciousness. He tries to explain his electromagnetic hypersensitivity to Chuck's physician, Dr. Cruz, but she tells Jimmy that his condition is a mental problem.
Upon returning home, Chuck confronts Jimmy about the publicity stunt. Realizing he can't go on living like he does, and that he must overcome his condition to return to work, Chuck begins building up a tolerance to electromagnetic fields by trying to stay outside for as long as he can bear. By the time Jimmy arrives to deliver groceries and paperwork, he is able to stand outside for a solid two minutes. Jimmy leaves behind boxes of paperwork related to a case he is building against the Sandpiper Crossing nursing home, knowing Chuck will impulsively sort them.
Deciding that Jimmy has a solid case against Sandpiper for overcharging residents, Chuck becomes Jimmy's co-counsel and assist him in the case. While meeting with Sandpiper's attorneys, Jimmy presents evidence that the company engaged in illicit interstate commerce, making them eligible for a RICO lawsuit. Chuck demands that Sandpiper Crossing pay $20 million in settlement fees, which the attorneys refuse. Invigorated by the case, Chuck convinces Jimmy to refer the case to HHM due to its sheer size, to which Jimmy reluctantly accepts. The night before their planned meeting with Howard, Chuck secretly sneaks outside while Jimmy is sleeping and uses his phone to make a call to someone.
The next day, Chuck is welcomed back by his colleagues at HHM. Howard offers to give Jimmy a monetary reward for the Sandpiper case, but still, refuses to let him join HHM. The next day, Jimmy confronts Chuck with his discovery that Chuck phoned Howard the night before their meeting. Jimmy deduces that Chuck called Howard to cut him out of the case and that Chuck has been keeping him out of HHM since the beginning. Chuck admits that it's all true, stating that Jimmy is not a "real lawyer" and has not changed from his days as a con man. Feeling hurt and betrayed, Jimmy cuts ties with him despite Chuck's pleading for him to come back in the house.
Chuck is last seen being delivered groceries from an HHM employee and giving up a large box of case files. Chuck sees Jimmy sitting outside in his car, and slowly prepares to open the door to go out and speak with him. Jimmy drives away before this can occur, leaving Chuck disappointed.
Upon being informed by Howard that Jimmy has been hired by the law firm of Davis & Main (D&M), Chuck feigns excitement. During a meeting between HHM and D&M concerning the Sandpiper case, Chuck sits in to "bear witness" as Jimmy argues on behalf of his clients.("Cobbler") During a later meeting, Chuck questions whether Jimmy used illegal methods to solicit new clients in the case.("Amarillo")
When Jimmy gets in trouble at D&M for broadcasting a tacky TV commercial without the firm's approval, his friend Kim Wexler -- who had vouched for Jimmy on behalf of HHM -- is demoted to document review, a.k.a. the "corn field." Jimmy promises to quit law in exchange for Kim being reinstated, but Chuck doesn't take the bait.("Gloves Off") During a meeting with Kim, Chuck blames Jimmy's childhood theft for the demise of the store in Cicero and the death of their father shortly afterwards. Chuck allows for Kim to be reinstated.("Rebecca")
Kim resigns from HHM to launch twin solo firms with Jimmy, and secures Mesa Verde Bank and Trust as her exclusive client. Alarmed, Chuck summons Mesa Verde's legal team to HHM without turning off the office's power beforehand. Though he manages to persuade Mesa Verde to keep HHM, he collapses from the EHS exposure. Wanting to get back at Chuck, Jimmy visits his brother and, while he is asleep, photocopies his Mesa Verde files and doctors the address information before they are mailed to the state regulator.("Fifi")
During a hearing before the New Mexico Banking Board, confusion over the address leads to a six-week delay for Mesa Verde. Chuck's insistence on deflecting blame for what seems to be his mistake frustrates Mesa Verde's staff, leading them to fire HHM and return to Kim. Chuck correctly suspects that Jimmy is behind the fiasco, and summons both Jimmy and Kim to lay out his allegations. Although she knows that Chuck is telling the truth, Kim decides to reject his claims and instead charges that his lack of faith in Jimmy caused his pattern of misbehavior in the first place. Chuck later visits the shop where Jimmy copied the files and becomes increasingly angry when the clerk (who Jimmy bribed) denies any wrongdoing. Overwhelmed by his emotions and his EHS, Chuck hits his head and loses consciousness.("Nailed")
Jimmy blows his cover by barging into the shop to come to Chuck's aid. At the hospital, Chuck asks Jimmy why he was there, but Ernesto, an HHM employee who is working as Chuck's personal assistant, covers for him. When Jimmy later asks why, Ernesto remarks that Chuck is obsessed with taking Jimmy down. Chuck is overwhelmed by the electricity as he is examined at the hospital, leading him to go through a self-induced catatonic state.
When Chuck returns home, he covers the entirety of his living room in foil, ostensibly to keep out more electromagnetic signals. Chuck also expresses disillusionment with himself for his "mistake" with the Mesa Verde files. Feeling guilty about Chuck's low self-esteem and worsening condition, Jimmy admits all of Chuck's accusations about the Mesa Verde files were true. However, unbeknownst to Jimmy, Chuck has faked his behavior to induce Jimmy into confessing, which he has recorded on audiotape.("Klick")
Immediately after Jimmy makes his confession, Chuck begins removing the foil from his living room walls. While Jimmy is helping him, he comes across an old copy of The Adventures of Mabel, a children's book which was read to him by Chuck when he was little. The two brothers engage in brief childhood nostalgia before Chuck cuts it short, stating that he will never forgive nor forget what Jimmy has done.
Later, Chuck plays the tape of Jimmy's confession to Howard. While angered by Jimmy's actions, Howard explains that the tape can't be used as evidence against Jimmy, nor could it be used to win back Mesa Verde. Chuck suggests that he has something else in mind. Later, when Ernesto drops off groceries and changes the batteries to the tape recorder, Chuck makes it so that he "accidentally" overhears Jimmy's confession. Chuck pressures Ernesto to not tell anyone what he heard on the premise of confidentiality.("Mabel")
Predicting that Ernesto will tip off Jimmy about the tape, Chuck hires a private investigator named Dave to wait for Jimmy to break in and steal it "under cover of darkness." However, after Jimmy learns about the tape from Kim, he angrily drives to Chuck's house in broad daylight, breaks down his door, pries open his desk drawer, and rips apart the tape in Chuck's face. However, Chuck comes out with the upper hand as Howard and Dave make their presence known, having just witnessed Jimmy committing a crime.("Witness")
After having Jimmy arrested, Chuck, apparently reconsidering his choices, suggests to DDA Kyra Hay that they offer Jimmy a pre-prosecution diversion (PPD) agreement where in exchange for confessing to his crimes, he avoids jail time. However, part of the deal is that Jimmy's confession goes straight to the New Mexico Bar Association, which would almost certainly result in Jimmy getting disbarred -- Chuck's true goal all along. After Kim promises to support him, Jimmy decides to "take that PPD and shove it up Chuck's ass." ("Sunk Costs")
Jimmy has a criminal acquaintance, Mike Ehrmantraut, come to Chuck's house posing a repairman for the door; Mike repels Chuck with an electric drill, then takes photos of the house's interior and copies Rebecca's contact information from Chuck's address book. Later, while meeting with Jimmy, Kim, Howard and Hay, Chuck disputes the wording of Jimmy's confession and raises Jimmy's restitution by a few dollars to pay for the destroyed tape. When Kim informs Chuck and Howard that she will move to suppress the tape from Jimmy's scheduled hearing before the bar, Chuck admits that Jimmy destroyed a duplicate and that the real tape is under "lock and key" and will be played in court. However, Kim anticipated this move.("Sabrosito")
Jimmy has Rebecca flown to Albuquerque to attend his hearing before the bar association and informs her of Chuck's purported EHS, which draws her sympathy. While cross-examining Chuck, Jimmy claims that he lied about doctoring the Mesa Verde files because he was worried enough about Chuck's state of mind to tell him what he wanted to hear. Jimmy presents Chuck's EHS as a mental illness, illustrating his point using Mike's pictures of Chuck's house.Jimmy questions Chuck about the range of his EHS, revealing he has had his cell phone in his pocket all along. Chuck recognizes that Jimmy removed the battery. However, Jimmy has Chuck check his breast pocket, where he discovers the fully-charged battery, planted by Huell Babineaux nearly two hours earlier. In all this time, Chuck has displayed no symptoms despite the battery's proximity to his body. Chuck snaps and delivers a rant showing his resentment towards Jimmy and his desperation to have him disbarred. After Chuck regains his composure, Jimmy dismisses him from the witness stand, having elicited the reaction that he wanted. ("Chicanery")
Following his meltdown in court, Chuck ignores Rebecca's attempts to talk to him as he cries over the results of his scheme. Howard later sits down with Chuck over a bottle of thirty-five year old liquor and tells him that Jimmy's license has been suspended for a year and that Chuck should let his vendetta go as its doing him no good. Chuck resolves to work through his EHS delusion, contacting Dr. Cruz and making an unaccompanied trip to a supermarket to buy groceries. Chuck is eager to cure himself and return to living a normal life, but Dr. Cruz warns him against pushing himself too hard.("Off Brand")("Slip")
Going into dire financial straits, and learning that his malpractice policy premium will go up by 150%, Jimmy informs the insurance company holding Chuck's policy of his mental condition and breakdown in court. As a result, the insurance company seeks to double the premiums of every lawyer at HHM. Howard makes a diplomatic suggestion to Chuck that he retire for the good of the firm, but Chuck assails Howard and storms out. He then announces his intention to sue HMM for breach of contract, determined to protect his legal career even at the risk of dragging his firm into a lawsuit it can't afford.("Expenses")("Fall")
Chuck is prepared to follow through with his threat to take HHM to court, but gives Howard the chance to put their disputes aside. Instead, Howard criticizes Chuck for putting his personal vendettas ahead of HHM's, and calls him out for his vindictive willingness to put the firm at risk in order to settle scores. Howard hands Chuck a check for $3 million of his own money and promises two more installments per the partnership agreement, depriving Chuck of his financial blackmail over HHM. Chuck is forced to watch as Howard announces his immediate departure in front of HHM's assembled staff. Chuck is given farewell greetings by everyone but Howard as he leaves.
Kim's recent car accident convinces Jimmy to reconsider his feud with Chuck, and he reluctantly drives to Chuck's house to reach out to his brother. Jimmy tells Chuck that he regrets certain action he took which escalated their quarrel, but signals a willingness to make amends. In response, Chuck says that Jimmy's overture is pointless because it is in his inherent nature to hurt the people around him, and asserts that he'll never change. In a final vicious move, Chuck tells Jimmy that he never really mattered to him. Jimmy is left crushed by Chuck's statement and leaves.
That night, Chuck begins a major relapse into his EHS delusion, pulling all of the breakers in his house. When he notices that his meter is still running, he tests the switches, removes the light bulbs, and disconnects the phone. When he sees that the meter is still running, he begins tearing apart every wall in his house looking for any hidden source of electrical current. He finds some wiring behind the wall, but realizes the meter remains running; he is driven to destroy the meter with his baseball bat in a rage. Finally, that night, with his house completely destroyed, Chuck purposefully kicks over one of his gas lanterns, setting his house on fire and killing himself in an act of suicide. ("Lantern")
Chuck is a brilliant man of high ideals; he believes that doing the right thing is the true and proper route to success. Chuck is a highly intelligent and dedicated lawyer who views the law as being sacred and is very determined in helping his clients in any way possible. He is well respected by his colleagues at HHM and also other prestigious law firms.
In contrast to his younger brother Jimmy, however, Chuck appears to be a less likable individual and is not as humorous as Jimmy, and is somewhat uptight and serious. Despite this, Chuck appears to view himself as being superior to his brother and that he does not deserve to be a lawyer due to the simple steps he took to become one and his past delinquent behavior. Although Chuck does care for his brother, it is very apparent that he loathes him for many reasons. He views him as being nothing more than a conman who has not changed at all since his "Slippin Jimmy" days and that the way he obtained a law degree was a joke and also hates how he is able to win people over so easily such as his ex-wife and even their own parents. It is hinted that Chuck is jealous of Jimmy to a degree which may be another contributing factor to why he always tries to cut him down in order to prevent him from surpassing himself at feats that he worked hard at to accomplish. Chuck firmly establishes the reasons for why he hates his brother in the episode "Chicanery". He later claims to Jimmy that he never mattered to Chuck at all.("Lantern")
Even though Jimmy himself took care of Chuck for almost a year and a half while suffering from his condition, Chuck has not changed his opinions on him at all and went to extreme lengths to prevent him from working at his law firm, even after Jimmy found and built a strong legal case. This incident also shows that Chuck would rather sacrifice a potential multi-million dollar case for HHM than to have Jimmy work at his law firm. Chuck also does not appear to care much for the well-being of others who are affected by his attempts to cut Jimmy down, noticeably Kim. Chuck firmly believes that he is protecting people from getting hurt by sabotaging Jimmy's attempts to be a successful lawyer as he claims people will get hurt if the power of law is abused.
Chuck is also shown to be rather cold toward his younger brother on many occasions such as lying to him that their mother spoke any last words before her death (she called for Jimmy) and brutally telling him of how he is not a real lawyer and that "Slippin Jimmy" with a law degree is nothing short of dangerous. Chuck is also shown to be a hypocrite to a degree as seen when he snaps at Jimmy for stabbing him the back, all the while completely ignoring that he has stabbed Jimmy in the back and betrayed him numerous times.After Chuck correctly deduces that Jimmy sabotaged his Mesa Verde files in order for the case to be returned to Kim, and was completely humiliated as a result, he embarks on a warpath against him to bring him down once and for all. Chuck has been shown to possess a rather ruthless side to a degree as he cunningly gets Jimmy to confess to the deed in private while pretending to feel remorse for his "mistake" and overcoming his electricity condition to record it on tape, showing that Chuck will go to extreme lengths to succeed at his goal.
It's highly indicated that Chuck's electromagnetic hypersensitivity is, in fact, a mental illness, not an actual allergy despite Chuck's beliefs. In one case, Dr. Cruz activated Chuck's hospital bed without his knowledge and he was unaffected, using it as proof to Jimmy that Chuck is in fact mentally ill rather than physically. ("Alpine Shepherd Boy") On another occasion, Huell Babineaux planted a fully-charged cell phone battery in Chuck's pectoral pocket, essentially putting it right up against Chuck's skin. Chuck remained completely unaffected and despite his claims that he could sense when an electronic object was close to him due to its effect on him, did not sense the battery. Chuck was completely unaware and unaffected for an hour and forty-three minutes, right until Jimmy revealed the battery's presence to him, further pointing to Chuck being mentally ill rather than physically sick. During the time this happens, Jimmy suggests that Chuck developed his condition in response to his divorce from his wife. ("Chicanery") Chuck later states that this incident caused him to reevaluate his condition and realize that perhaps everyone is right and was left to wonder if he was wrong about the condition, what else he was wrong about. ("Slip")
When he feels that he has been crossed, Chuck becomes vindictive towards that person above all else. This is seen with both his actions towards Jimmy and Howard Hamlin following Howard suggesting that he retire. When following his personal vendettas, Chuck is seen to be willing to do anything to win, even if it means destroying the law firm he helped build when his actions caused Howard to lose faith in him. Even Howard, who had supported Chuck against Jimmy, noted that Chuck went too far with his vendettas and caused serious collateral damage to everything around him in the process.
Following his courtroom breakdown, Chuck reevaluated his life and finally sought help for his EHS delusion. He expressed hope of returning to a normal life and was eager to move forward. He also appeared to regret some of his choices. After finally seeking help, Chuck was able to do grocery shopping for himself with some help, turn his power back on and even cook for himself over a regular stove for the first time in years. While still haunted by his EHS, Chuck had developed coping mechanisms with the help of Dr. Cruz that appeared to involve him naming what he could see and focusing on that. However, Chuck's behavior did not change in any other way following this and he retained the vindictive parts of his personality, as seen with his interactions with Howard following the meeting with the malpractice insurance company.
At the end of his life, Chuck suffered a major relapse of his EHS following his being forced from HHM and his vindictive last conversation with his brother. In this state, Chuck was compelled to destroy his own house in search of a single source of electricity still running and ultimately the power meter. This relapse appeared to be worse than Chuck's original onset of the delusion as he never went to such an extreme except when he wrapped his house in Mylar which was part of his plot to trick Jimmy. His relapse ultimately drove Chuck to suicide.
- "I know what you were, what you are. People don't change! You're Slippin' Jimmy! And Slippin' Jimmy, I can handle just fine, but Slippin' Jimmy with a law degree is like a chimp with a machine gun!" "
- ― Chuck admitting his true feelings toward his brother.
- "It's not a situation, it's a condition. Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity. For reasons unknown, my nervous system has become sensitized to certain frequencies of electromagnetic radiation."
- ― Chuck explaining his condition.
- "My brother is not a bad person. He has a good heart. It's just he can't help himself, and everyone's left picking up the pieces"
- ―Chuck to Kim Wexler.
- "You think this is something? You think this is bad, this–this chicanery? He's done worse. That billboard! Are you telling me that a man just happens to fall like that? No, he orchestrated it! Jimmy! He defecated through a sunroof, and I saved him! I shouldn't have! I took him into my own firm! What was I thinking? He'll never change. He'll never change! Ever since he was nine, always the same! Couldn't keep his hands out of the cash drawer! "But not our Jimmy! Couldn't be precious Jimmy!" Stealing them blind! And he gets to be a lawyer?! What a sick joke! I should have stopped him when I had the chance! And you, you have to stop him! You—" "
- ―Chuck imploding in front of his relatives and the New Mexico Bar Association.
- "Hey. I don't want to hurt your feelings... but the truth is you've never mattered all that much to me."
- ―Chuck's last words to Jimmy.
- Chuck shares a scene with every main character except Nacho Varga and Gustavo Fring.
- Chuck is the first main character in Better Call Saul to die.
- ↑ Michael McKean's ITW for the New York Times about Chuck's death: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/19/arts/television/better-call-saul-finale-michael-mckean-chuck.html