Death is always a difficult topic to address, whether in real-life situations or on fictional television programs. For the creative talents behind AMC’s Better Call Saul, no death in the series has been quite as thought-provoking as the suicide of Chuck McGill [Michael McKean] at the end of the show’s third season. As viewers may recall, Chuck and his brother Jimmy [Bob Odenkirk] shared a tense meeting the night prior to the eldest brother’s death where Chuck brutally explained to Jimmy that he had “never really mattered all that much” to him. The following day, audiences witnessed Chuck’s untimely death as his office went up in flames.
During a press conference at this year’s San Diego Comic Con, Odenkirk and executive producer/showrunner Peter Gould shared their thoughts on how Chuck’s death would affect the people closest to him. While both agreed that the tragic event would play an important role in the upcoming season’s plot, their thoughts differed on how Jimmy would react to the loss of his brother.
For Odenkirk, the final conversation between the brothers forever marred Jimmy’s opinion of Chuck, leading to the permanent removal of Chuck from Jimmy’s consciousness.
“That scene that happened the night before, when Chuck told Jimmy that he never really cared about him and that he never meant much to him, colored the whole impact of Chuck’s death. I think Jimmy walked out of the room and compartmentalized Chuck. He wrote him out of his life the night before he died…I perceive Jimmy as having disowned Chuck when that conversation happened and saying that he would not let this guy affect him. So, when Chuck dies the next day, that is where his head is at…If someone you know and you’re close to dies, I think it’s natural to think about the last thing you talked about and the last thing you both said. In this case, Chuck said some really cold stuff and he seemed to mean it. He wasn’t emotional or anything. He just seemed to be matter of fact about it. For me, Jimmy wrote Chuck out of his life and he’s not going to let Chuck’s death weigh him down.”
In contrast, Gould views the death of Chuck as an event which will have intense, reverberating effects on Jimmy’s day-to-day existence.
“This season [will focus] on the effect that someone who is dead can still have on the living. Not in terms of being a literal ghost, but when you lose someone physically, you haven’t lost them from your mind or your heart. The effects of people who are gone linger on. I take some of my own personal experiences. My father died literally before I was born and the impact of his life and his work on me is enormous and I never met him. One of the things we were all thinking about and talking about in the writer’s room is this effect on Jimmy.”
Luckily, both men believe that their individual opinions can coexist in the same story. Odenkirk explained that they have “gone through a whole season of that dichotomy and didn’t have a problem.” He affirmed that “it’s okay to disagree.” Gould agreed, noting that “if [they] agreed on everything instantly, [they] would be doing something wrong.”
Make sure to tune into the season four premiere of Better Call Saul on AMC on August 6th!