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Characters / Better Call Saul: Chuck McGill

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Charles Lindbergh "Chuck" McGill
"The law is sacred! If you abuse that power, people get hurt."
Portrayed By: Michael McKean

What I know for sure is that the law is too important to be toyed with. It's mankind's greatest achievement; the rule of law, the idea that no matter who you are, your actions have consequences..."

Jimmy’s older brother Chuck, a name partner at one of Albuquerque’s most prestigious law firms, Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill, is a brilliant man who holds himself and others to the highest standards. However, he suffers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity, a debilitating affliction garnered under mysterious circumstances, which makes it challenging for him to lead a normal life. Chuck’s unyielding belief that doing the right thing is the only true path leads to a fraught relationship with Jimmy.

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  • Acquired Poison Immunity: After his tortuous arrest experience, he starts training himself to increase the amount of time he can stand to be outside, explicitly comparing it to taking small amounts of poison.
  • Amoral Attorney: Very much Played With, because, on the one hand, he never does anything illegal (as Kim says, he had a legal right to make the tape) and very much believes in the rule of law... but, his personal ethics leave a lot to be desired. Finally Played Straight when he outright sues HHM in retaliation for Howard nicely asking him to retire and get a law teaching job. While legal, it was clearly done out of malice.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: He's still an Asshole Victim and brought most of his fate upon himself, but it's still sad to see him gradually lose his mind as he mindlessly rids his house of anything electrical, culminating in his self-inflicted Cruel and Unusual Death by fire.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Well, social ambition is hazardous to your personal moral code and relationships with others, at the very least. Including colleagues who've supported you.
  • And Starring: "and Michael McKean".
  • Anti-Villain: At first, his motivations seem somewhat sound and it appears that he truly believes in the law, making him an admittedly hypocritical Well-Intentioned Extremist contrasted against our Unscrupulous Hero Jimmy. As his feud with Jimmy escalates, however, it becomes clearer that it's his own bitter jealousy and overwhelming pride that leads him to battle his own brother.
  • Arc Villain: Of Jimmy's arc of transitioning into Saul Goodman. An ironic legal villain.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Jimmy asking him why he doesn't threaten resignation to get Jimmy a job. The charade falls apart almost instantly.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: His response, a "The Reason You Suck" Speech directed at Jimmy about how Jimmy isn't a "real" lawyer, obviously hits Jimmy just as deeply as Jimmy's questions hit Chuck.
  • Asshole Victim: While Jimmy used a lot of underhanded and illegal moves to destroy his career, Chuck didn't really help his case by treating every associates around him as pawns and refusing to admit that he has possible mental problems until it's too late.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
    • Chuck will occasionally have a tender moment in Season 2 where he'll state firmly that in spite of their differences, he truly does love his brother and wants what he feels is best for him. How sincere he is, however, is up for debate.
    • It's finally subverted during Chuck's freakout on the stand, where his rant, although arguably justified, is oozing with nothing less than pure, unadulterated malice.
    • And then it's finally strangled and thrown off a cliff in the final episode of Season 3: "I don't want to hurt your feelings, but the truth is, you've never mattered all that much to me."
  • Batman Gambit: Pulls an absolutely savage one on Jimmy after recovering from the copy shop incident, using Jimmy's concern for his well-being to make him feel guilty and confess to forging the Mesa Verde files, which he has recorded and will seemingly try to use to land his brother in prison. He then takes it even further in Season 3 when he uses poor, mistreated Ernesto as a pawn to lure Jimmy into a felony assault, since Chuck knew that the tape alone had no use.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: Chuck seems to have genuinely convinced himself that he's trying to help his brother and uphold the sanctity of the law, when his actions in truth have more to do with petty spite than any other considerations. He clearly only cares about the Mesa Verde forgeries for the damage they did to him personally and his reputation rather than the injury done to his firm or his clients, and it ultimately turns out that he isn't above ruthlessly using people and then callously tossing them aside just to get his own satisfaction.
  • Berserk Button: Although he was already on the edge thanks to Jimmy's tactics during the bar hearing, the implication that he's crazy is what really causes Chuck to go off.
  • Big Bad Friend: To Jimmy during season 1. Chuck, being initially confined to his house due to his (ambiguous) electromagnetic disorder, would often advise Jimmy and give him some pep talks about how to improve his situation or give the already savvy trickster even more ground to stand on. Played with since it's implied that while Chuck was still blocking him from entering a respectable firm like HHM, he was okay as long as Jimmy would go solo and succeeding as long as he didn't enter higher leagues. Not that his actions aren't still despicable.
  • Big Bad Slippage: As each season goes by, his desire to upstage Jimmy in every way, his delusional belief in his version of the law and what's right, and his deep flaws as a person push him to act more drastically damaging towards his own brother (as well as any ally he may have), fitting him more and more into an actual antagonist. Although everything he does is technically legal, it doesn't stop him from psychologically ruining almost everyone he touches, including Howard.
  • Big Brother Bully: Chuck, being the responsible one in the family for years, subconsciously believes that he has the right to decide what Jimmy ought to be doing and what not, whether he likes it or not. Needless to say, Jimmy doesn't appreciate this.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Implied in his younger years. While by the end, they're no longer on good terms and Chuck might be telling the truth when he denies caring about him altogether, a Flashback shows that there was a time where Chuck cared enough about Jimmy to assure him that protagonist of The Adventures Of Mabel "will be okay".
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Chuck has been undermining Jimmy for years, ever since he passed the bar, while pretending to be on his side the whole time. He even snatched Kim's case by not-so-subtly saying that he is the best choice, and while flattering her, he bashed her at the same time.
  • Broken Ace: He's highly intelligent, successful, and respected by his colleagues, but lacks his brother's charming personality and charisma. Even their parents liked Jimmy better (despite Jimmy being the screw-up son) and Chuck has clearly developed a complex about this. It's also indicated that Chuck's electromagnetic hypersensitivity is, in fact, a mental illness, not an actual allergy. He ends up being destroyed by his own pride and ego and eventually is Driven to Suicide.
  • Broken Pedestal: Jimmy idolizes his older brother and desperately wants his respect. However, Chuck loses virtually all of his ability to shame Jimmy after it's revealed that Chuck has been secretly and intentionally sabotaging Jimmy's efforts to start a law practice.
  • Bullying a Dragon: As per the Season 2 Finale. Seriously Chuck, keep mistreating an experienced con-man looking after you even though you're at their mercy, What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Viewers thought this was subverted when Jimmy breaking into his house in front of witnesses showed that Chuck was playing a much deeper game, but that all changed in the episode "Chicanery", where Jimmy used his con abilities and knowledge of his brother to utterly destroy Chuck's credibility.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Played for drama. Chuck's apparent sensitivity to electromagnetism forces him to live in a dark house without modern appliances and with a limited ability to venture outside without major anxiety attacks. However, a trip to the emergency room reveals that it's all the placebo effect's nastier twin, the nocebo.
  • Cain and Abel: Jimmy and Chuck's relationship and rivalry is an underlying theme for the entire series. While most viewers see Chuck as the Cain for his deliberate sabotaging of Jimmy's career, he's also the one that ultimately dies as a result of the rivalry.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Chuck is telling the truth about Jimmy's confession and the subsequent break-in in his testimony before the bar association, as well as Jimmy's past misdeeds. But right after Jimmy has exposed his EHS as a delusion and Chuck has made his hatred for his brother painfully obvious via Motive Rant, his claims come across as paranoia to everyone else in the courtroom.
    • Moreover, the audience knows that Chuck's completely correct in pegging Jimmy as dangerous to the law.
  • Catchphrase: He leans hard on "As an officer of the court...." and "My brother has a good heart, but...."
  • Character Development: In Slip, after spending so many episodes in denial about his mental condition, he starts making steps to try and buy things for himself rather than relying on Jimmy, Howard, or Ernesto to do that. However, this is sadly subverted by the end of the season when it turns out to be a front, especially after the stress of being forced out of HHM gets to him, culminating in his suicide.
  • Child Prodigy: Graduated from high school at fourteen years old.
  • Control Freak: While he likes to believe that he's doing the right thing and has devoted his life to the rules, he has an obsessive need to exercise control over everything, especially the life of his brother, and he doesn't seem to understand why Jimmy might have a problem with this tendency. His psychosomatic sensitivity to electricity may be a coping mechanism related to this, as it seems to ramp up whenever he's lost control of a situation, and his insistence that the condition is psychosomatic reflects this further, as Chuck has to believe that it's something he cannot control as opposed to something he failed to.
  • Crazy-Prepared: When he records a tape of Jimmy confessing to tampering with the Mesa Verde file, Chuck has enough foresight to make a copy in case Jimmy attempts to destroy or steal the tape.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Played with, since Chuck doesn't live long enough to witness the end result, but had he not gone through with his plot to get Jimmy disbarred, then there's a very good chance that Jimmy would have remained a small-time elder law specialist, who might occasionally have lapsed back into his "Slippin' Jimmy" persona when bored. Instead, Chuck's actions play a huge part in Jimmy's transition into the full-on Amoral Attorney Saul Goodman.
  • Death by Origin Story: Commits suicide by burning his own house down after Jimmy ruins his career.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Consider the events of Seasons 2 and 3 from Chuck's perspective. First, his brother Jimmy — who cut corners and manipulated people all his life while Chuck made his success through hard work — tricks him into making a clerical error that costs his firm a client. He embarks on a scheme to expose Jimmy's fraud, only for Jimmy to out-gambit him in court and ruin his reputation with his ex-wife, his law partner, and the legal community. Then Howard tries to force Chuck into retirement over the insurance issue, and Chuck finds that he can't bully Howard into letting him stay in his own firm. Chuck gets one final Kick the Dog session with Jimmy, but with him gone and no one else to boss around, he has little else to do than to throw himself back into his EHS delusion. He becomes so obsessed with finding hidden sources of electricity that he undergoes severe Sanity Slippage as he tears his house apart. After all of that, with Jimmy having mostly gotten away with screwing over Chuck, it's no wonder that Chuck decides to kill himself.
  • The Determinator: Rushes out into the deep exposure of electromagnetism just to grab the newspaper. He will also go to great lengths to keep his clients away from what could help Jimmy. Particularly in trying to retain Mesa Verde from what he perceives as Kim's and his partnership. In short, if it'll undermine Jimmy, he'll focus on pulling every stop out, however much it hurts him.
  • Didn't Think This Through: As Jimmy points out, getting Jimmy arrested and firing Ernie means that no one will be around to take care of him and he will most likely die alone.
  • Dirty Coward: He lacks the guts to simply tell Jimmy upfront that he doesn't want him working as a lawyer at HHM. If he did, then Howard wouldn't have had to deal with Jimmy's shit and a lot of drama at both HMM and Davis and Main would have been avoided. He then exploits Jimmy's sympathy to get a confession out of him.
    • To make matters worse with this trope, he pulls some low grade Xanatos Speed Chess to make sure that Jimmy is only disbarred but not jailed in the hopes that Jimmy will look after him, despite all the shit that Chuck has pulled.
  • Driven by Envy: He's rather unappreciative of what he already has (he's a universally praised litigator and a partner in a more than reputable firm) and seems out to get his younger brother simply because he can't stand the fact that Jimmy has something he doesn't.
  • Driven to Suicide: Sets fire to his own house with him in it in the Season 3 finale, after a relapse that caused him to nearly, and quite literally, tear his house apart and rip out any and all wires and electronics.
  • The Dutiful Son: When he and Jimmy were young. It seems to be the root of his resentment, in fact.
  • Dying Alone: What Jimmy thinks might happen to Chuck should he keep pushing people to their limit with his overzealous belief of being right. Sure enough, after alienating Howard, getting kicked out of HHM, and permanently severing his relationship with Jimmy via a vicious Take That!, Chuck finds himself alone in his house and eventually kills himself.
  • Envy: Of the love Jimmy gets from everyone, as he thinks Jimmy deserves none for being an irresponsible con man and that as the dutiful son, everything should be his.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: His betrayal of Jimmy is heartbreaking.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Like Jimmy, he doesn't get that abusing people's trust and manipulating them into doing your schemes is bad; even worse, Chuck is doing this to friends and confidents instead of strangers with the same detachment that Jimmy has for his marks. When he provides Howard with proof that Jimmy doctored the Mesa Verde file, Howard is more upset that Chuck scared him with pulling his shares of the firm for a touch of "vérité" in his scheme than Jimmy's sabotage.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Through all of his pride and ego, deep down in his spiteful heart, he still actually does love his little brother. He just can't stomach the idea of him being a lawyer.
    • One of his more sympathetic reasons for hating Jimmy is that he blames him for the death of their father.
    • It's implied he loved his mother. It was largely for her sake that he bailed Jimmy out of jail after the sunroof incident.
    • He cares about his ex-wife Rebecca and leaves her his house in his will.
  • Evil Is Petty: Brings up the time Jimmy used fake I.D. passports to get his mates beer in High School.
    • His Taking You with Me plan is rationalised as ok in Chuck's mind because he was a partner whilst Howard "was in diapers", essentially. Even though in reality, it's not as black and white as that.
  • Expy:
  • Fatal Flaw: His pride and Ungrateful Bastard tendencies ultimately turn into this over the course of Season 3:
    • In "Chicanery", Howard tells him that there's no need for him to testify in Jimmy's bar association hearing, as both Howard himself and the private detective hired by Chuck can do that. Instead, he insists on being there personally to ensure Jimmy's disbarment, but ends up ruining his own credibility via a Motive Rant after Jimmy proves that his sensitivity to electricity isn't real, meaning that Jimmy just gets suspended for a year instead of being disbarred outright.
    • In "Fall", it turns out that Jimmy leaked information about Chuck's mental state to HHM's insurers, thus causing them to demand vastly increased premiums so long as Chuck remains actively involved with the firm. Howard sees the writing on the wall for Chuck's continued role at HHM and suggests that he drop down to silent partner status, while also taking up a professorship at the state university, which would still be a vastly more active life than he's had over the last few years. Chuck responds by threatening to sue HHM if they try to force him out in any way.
    • In "Lantern", Howard finally decides that he's had enough of dealing with Chuck, and decides to Take a Third Option and buy Chuck's shares in the company using his own money. Chuck gets over $3m upfront and will ultimately receive $8m; an amount that he could either retire comfortably on or use to set up his own firm. However, being ditched by HHM finally sends him over the edge, leading to major Sanity Slippage over the course of the episode, which eventually culminates in his suicide.
  • Foil: To Hank Schrader. Chuck is Jimmy's brother and obviously represents the morally correct way of dealing with the law, much like how Hank is Walt's brother-in-law and represents the morally correct way of dealing with the drug world that Walter has entered into. But whereas Chuck is shown to be unlikable and distasteful in his adherence to the law, Hank is shown to be heroic and morally righteous surrounding his work with the DEA. Chuck is willing to sue his own brother and use the law in ways that are, although legal, immoral and personally distasteful, whereas Hank is more passionate about fighting the good fight and even bends the rules at times just to resolve what he believes to be right. Whereas Hank's correctness leads him to be the heroic, popular family member who is looked up to by everyone, Chuck's correctness leads him to be a lonely, selfish man. It's Walter who's often envious of Hank and his position in the family, especially when his son looks up to him, whereas Chuck is the one who is envious of Jimmy, who he doesn't understand why he is more loved considering his own correctness.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The Responsible to Jimmy's Foolish. Jimmy is working his tail off to rise above his crooked past, though. And Chuck is secretly undermining Jimmy's struggle, believing him unworthy of practicing law, and angered by the shortcuts that Jimmy has taken along the way.
  • Freudian Excuse: Chuck holds Jimmy responsible for their father's store bankruptcy; it is after that point that he saw Jimmy less as a foolish sibling and more as an inconsiderate person who drags people into muck with him.
  • Freudian Slip: When Jimmy first expresses his desire to move up from the mail room and get hired by the firm, Chuck instinctively asks, "As what?" Later, he does the same thing when Howard tells Chuck that Jimmy has landed a job at Davis & Main; Chuck asks him without thinking "as what?" before catching on. Howard seems momentarily taken aback.

  • Good Is Not Nice: Condescending, arrogant, borderline a Knight Templar when it comes to stopping his brother from joining big law firms, and all around unpleasant toward anyone... but he still isn't the one breaking the law. While he is right that Jimmy shouldn't be practicing the law, and his extreme methods are responses to Jimmy's illegal ones, he ruins both his health and relationships over it.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: In Season 4, Chuck takes this role posthumously after his suicide. Jimmy spends the season struggling with grief from the suicide and the suspension that Chuck caused. Jimmy eventually deals with his grief by completely rejecting Chuck and the type of lawyer life he represents while feigning regret about it towards the bar committee and Kim. After this, he begins to practice law under the name Saul Goodman.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: As we learn more about Chuck's relationship with Jimmy, it's revealed that jealousy is a pretty huge part of his motivation for continually hurting his brother. Chuck has always been envious of Jimmy's easy way with people; Jimmy makes friends quickly whereas Chuck is largely charmless. He may have gained a great deal of professional respect and esteem, not to mention loyalty from more charming people like Howard, but it isn't enough: he wants people to like him for himself. In short, he wants everything Jimmy has, and more than that, he wants Jimmy to have nothing.
  • Head-in-the-Sand Management: There are hints that this goes beyond Chuck's attempts to manage his illness (whatever it might actually be) and the change in his circumstances. Chuck may push the ethical side of practice, but the other partners of his firm don't seem to quite share his ethos and are quite willing to use his strong beliefs on a number of topics for their own ends. He may have been The Face of the firm. Later subverted, as he is clearly the top dog and just let Howard do the day to day operation.
  • Hero Antagonist: Initially, then progressively less so as the McGill bowl escalates.
    • Chuck stands against our antihero Jimmy, even though Chuck is fighting to maintain the integrity of the law and prevent his brother from becoming a corrupt lawyer. His tactics and demeanor, however, often leave something to be desired, keeping Jimmy sympathetic even when Chuck calls him out on his unethical behavior.
    • This is outright subverted by Season 3, when Chuck displays a host of unethical behavior himself and it becomes more and more apparent (despite what Chuck is telling himself and everybody else) that he really does have it out for his little brother. A Nominal Hero antagonist at best.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Chuck's endgame all along with the Mesa Verde confession was to boot Jimmy from the legal profession. He thinks he's about to succeed by forcing Jimmy to take a deal where he avoids jail time in exchange for letting himself be disbarred. But during the hearing, Jimmy manages to turn the tables on Chuck through an elaborate Batman Gambit which eventually sends Chuck into an enraged Motive Rant that completely undermines his version of events, ruins his reputation with everyone he knows, and eventually ends his career when HHM's insurer hikes their premiums over Chuck's mental issues. It also causes the bar to suspend Jimmy for a year, instead of disbarring him as Chuck wanted.
    • Even more so with his decision to testify at all. If Chuck took Howard's advice not to testify, he would have pulled the rug out from under Jimmy, who wouldn't have been able to pull off the battery ploy and gotten disbarred lickety-split. But Chuck was too eager to personally watch Jimmy fall, allowing Jimmy to play him into self-destructing.
  • Holier Than Thou: His defining characteristic. He was extremely haughty about his lawfulness and considered it an affront that someone like Jimmy could become a lawyer.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Much is made about Chuck's dedication and competence as one of the best attorneys in New Mexico, being the moving force behind HHM and turning it into a powerhouse law firm without peers. At the beginning of the series, Chuck has been benched due to an Ambiguous Disorder that made him act afraid of electricity and turned him into a shut-in with Jimmy as his carer. The condition worsens his ability to function and his pride makes it all but impossible to voice his needs to anyone, keeping the problem hidden from all. Then, as the relationship with Jimmy worsens, Chuck tries to get better after an altercation with a neighbor and tasering by the police, he's able to function outside his comfort zone and return to work least until his feud with Jimmy reaches a breaking point due to a mishap at court, after which he uses every method to destroy his brother. He ends up being publicly humiliated at Jimmy's bar hearing, his mental condition being discovered, his insurance rates getting hiked, being forced into retirement, his counterattack burning all remaining bridges, his isolation from everyone, and a slide back into insanity. Finally, tired, self-deluded, broken, alone, and in constant pain, Chuck chooses to off himself by burning down the house while inside it. Wow.
  • Hypochondria: Chuck suffers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity, a psychosomatic illness where being near any electromagnetic fields causes someone pain. In season 1, a doctor turns on an electric medical device without Chuck's knowledge to determine that the illness is just in his head. In season 3, Jimmy proves it at his disbarment hearing by slipping a battery into Chuck's pocket without Chuck suffering any ill effects. After this, Chuck begins to consider whether he's ruined his life for nothing. He finally admits that he's mentally ill and begins treatment for it, but it doesn't last.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Spends the entire first season chiding Jimmy about his less-than-ethical behavior promoting himself as a lawyer before it's revealed that he has been lying to his brother for years, sabotaging his career, and foisting the blame for Jimmy's troubles with HHM onto Howard, pretending to be on his brother's side but in actuality horrified at the thought of 'Slippin' Jimmy' working as a lawyer.
    • During a later argument with Jimmy, he accuses Jimmy of stabbing him in the back by doing document forgery. Which is true. But Chuck already backstabbed Jimmy by keeping him from succeeding as a legitimate lawyer. Chuck's actions, at least, weren't illegal... but they had been going on for years.
    • Turns out he's not above a little entrapment himself... Yup: fraud's OK if he's the one doing it "to catch a crook" — even though Jimmy is both his brother and his primary caretaker even at that point, still.
    • Chuck paints himself the high and mighty do-gooder compared to Jimmy, but when it comes down to it, he resorts to backhanded shady tactics to get what he wants, just like Jimmy. Jimmy embraces who he is, while Chuck is still in denial that he's no different than Jimmy.
    • He tells Jimmy that laziness is the only sin he's not guilty of. Even applied to Jimmy, a statement like that is extreme and hardly fair, and Chuck's actions in regards to his brother have ironically been fueled by his own vanity and jealousy, traditionally the top two worst of the Seven Deadly Sins.
    • After having told Jimmy that abusing the law could get people hurt, he shows no compunction about suing Hamlin, Hamlin, & McGill after Howard tries to force him into retirement, even though he knows that HHM can't afford to pay back the damages he's seeking, which would mean liquidating his own firm and putting Howard and the entire staff out a job.
    • He tells Jimmy that he's ultimately going to destroy all his relationships because that's all he's good for, and in the very same conversation, he looks him dead in the eyes and tells Jimmy that he's never mattered that much to him. This coming from the man who destroyed his marital and professional relationships on his own.
    • In the same moment mentioned above, he gives Jimmy shit for not changing his ways. Chuck is a firm believer that people don't change and his entire reason for sabotaging Jimmy's career was motivated by his belief that Jimmy was still the same hustler and always would be.
  • Ignored Expert: Jimmy really does admire Chuck's skills, but just doesn't want to hear about how much too much they've bitten off to chew with the suit against Sandpiper. He'd rather get buried in files than go to Hamlin in any capacity whatsoever. But Chuck's got a point, whatever his motivation: more hands are needed to do the case justice, as the opposition are more than willing to throw cotton wool at them to bog them down. Chuck did get him to back down on this, but since the reveal of his role in Jimmy's lack of success, there's no way he's going to just leave it be: as far as Jimmy is concerned, his case got conned from him.
  • Insufferable Genius: His way to bring up law and culture trivia during season one sounded wise, but when he starts explaining why he is the best choice for Mesa Verde or how Jimmy had done a misdeed, it's insulting.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Chuck is a very prideful person, and is infuriated by the idea that his 'crook brother' could achieve anything remotely resembling legit success. The reality is that Chuck has a lot to be proud of, but takes no joy in his own achievements if Jimmy is achieving anything on his own. He appears to keep his own ego bolstered by Jimmy's misery.
  • It's All About Me: Chuck has been stabbing his kid brother in the back all these years because he doesn't think Jimmy should be a lawyer, not seeming to register that that is in no way something that's up to him to decide. Later he drags Howard, Ernie, and the rest of HHM into his vendetta with his brother, cruelly using Ernie's concern for his friend to place Jimmy right where he wants him and dipping into company funds to hire the private investigators needed for his gambit against Jimmy. Howard tries to be polite and compromising about it, but he seems to be getting just as fed up with Chuck's antics (along with his patronizing attitude) as Kim is with Jimmy's.
  • Jerkass: It really says something when Chuck holds Jimmy's past as a con man against him, then goes out and employs his own con games by using people's positive qualities against them in service to his vendetta against Jimmy. In the Mesa Verde tape gambit, Chuck exploited both Jimmy's love and Ernesto's loyalty to entrap Jimmy. It's that gambit which broke Jimmy to the point where he became noticeably colder and his cons turned increasingly cruel.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: It seems to be a Running Gag that Chuck will have a legitimate point whilst still being a complete asshole about it. We already know that Chuck is completely correct that Jimmy is a corrupt lawyer, but it's pretty hard to pay attention to that after he's done admitting that he's been secretly betraying his brother for years because of that assessment.
    • Putting aside Chuck's knowledge of Jimmy's past:
      • In season one, it was a gut punch to Jimmy and the audience that Chuck was the one secretly keeping Jimmy from getting a job at HHM. But Chuck worked hard to build a prominent and respected law firm, and Jimmy has a criminal record, a correspondence school degree, and passed the bar on the third try. There's no way he'd even be considered on his own merits, and it's pretty presumptuous to assume that he should be hired out of straight nepotism. He has a better argument after proving his worth on the Sandpiper case, but Chuck has ample reason to not want him on board.
      • In season two, the audience and Jimmy are mad that Chuck convinced Mesa Verde to stay with HHM instead of going with Kim. Thing is, Chuck did nothing but make an honest and valid case to retain a major client, which was pretty much his duty as a partner. He didn't lie, misrepresent, denigrate Kim's skills, or act remotely unethically. Jimmy breaks the law and sabotages Mesa Verde to get back at Chuck.
      • Controversially, even the 'confession tape' is an example. Jimmy did gaslight Chuck after all, and in Chuck's mind he needed to be absolutely sure that it was Jimmy who doctored the files and not just Chuck screwing up due to stress.
      • In Season 3, Chuck's behavior towards Ernesto is at least somewhat justified, given that Ernesto has lied to cover for Jimmy before, even when it was clear that Jimmy was doing something illegal. Chuck is still an Ungrateful Bastard and an awful person socially, but he nonetheless has a legitimate argument that Ernesto has demonstrated twice that he will put his personal loyalty to Jimmy above his professional duties and ethics.
    • He calls out Jimmy's attitude of repenting every time he hurts someone yet never stops his hurtful ways.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In Season 2, now that he no longer hides his resentment about Jimmy being a lawyer, it means he can now be more open in that he loves him as a brother. He even asserts to Kim that Jimmy is not a bad person, but just can't help himself. He even thanks Jimmy in Rico for taking care of him and reassures him that he would do the same if in Jimmy's position and the roles were reversed. That said, as of Season 3 — entrapping Jimmy through emotional manipulation, firing Ernesto when he served his purpose, only to backtrack on having Jimmy jailed for the selfish reason of not being deprived of a career, and turning on HHM when Howard asks him to retire — there's a good case to be made that he's crossed over into being a stone-cold Jerk with a Heart of Jerk.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • He reveals how much he really believes in Jimmy at the end of "Pimento" in a needlessly brutal way.
    • Taunts Jimmy about the fact he will be late for work whilst already being on shaky ground at Davis & Main. After Jimmy had spent all night taking care of and watching over Chuck when he felt sick, made him tea, and begged him to get Kim her old position back. Although the context of Jimmy's screw-up makes it come across as Kick the Son of a Bitch in that moment.
    • Uses Jimmy's own brotherly concern against him by faking a mental breakdown, indirectly guilt-tripping Jimmy into confessing to the Mesa Verde file tampering, and recording the confession without Jimmy's knowledge.
    • He then uses that tape in a larger gambit to bait his brother into breaking into his home in front of witnesses and then have him arrested.
    • And, at last, having succeeded in his Batman Gambit, he fires Ernesto, who he deliberately manipulated into making the gambit work.
    • He threatens to sue his own partner over the quite justified concerns Howard has over his unpredictable judgement and decision making, as the Mesa Verde confession tape gambit shows.
    • Jimmy has an epiphany after Kim's car accident and approaches Chuck, saying he regrets escalating their feud and wants to reconcile. Chuck's response? "The truth is, you never really mattered much to me." That, of course, after trying to sue HHM into not booting him. And they turn out to be the last words Chuck ever utters to Jimmy before he kills himself.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Played With. At the end of Season 3, he tells Jimmy he never cared much for him, among a choice selection of insults and Never My Fault protestations by himself, when Jimmy makes one final attempt to make amends. This comes after Chuck's dismissal of HHM and the collapse of his purpose: returning to form to work again; likewise, Jimmy is forced to confront Kim's overworking might be partly his fault and wants to make amends to soothe his guilt. Chuck simply decides to use one last jerk move to gain some momentary satisfaction and sense of superiority while at the same time calling Jimmy out on how his moves have screwed people around him and how a simple "I'm Sorry" won't do at this point. Of course, he's unaware of Kim's accident, but the effect is the same. However, once Jimmy goes...
  • Kryptonite Is Everywhere: Electricity is everywhere in the modern world, so Chuck cowers from basically everything in pain. Of course, the pain is psychosomatic, so if he can't see something using electricity, he shows no symptoms.

  • The Man Behind the Man: The one really preventing Jimmy from a career with HHM isn't Howard, it's Chuck.
    • In a broader sense, season 3 reveals that Chuck was the real power at HHM, with Chuck personally building the firm into the powerhouse it comes to be at the show's beginning. It's even implied that Howard was brought in by his father specifically to make the Hamlins look better in the deal. After Chuck's death, Howard spends Season 4 struggling to keep the firm afloat by himself.
  • Manipulative Bastard:
    • He's been keeping Jimmy out of HHM because he doesn't want him succeeding as a lawyer.
    • At the end of Season 2, he reaches a new low, taking advantage of his brother's fear of hurting him to manipulate him into a taped confession of his tampering of the Mesa Verde files.
  • Married to the Job: Takes his work very seriously and didn't have much of a life outside it even before his EMS took hold. As Jimmy puts it in "Winner", "The guy never has any fun".
  • Mean Boss: As an employer, Chuck isn't entirely unpleasant, but he can still be rather impatient and condescending, especially with Ernesto. Even Howard is growing weary of how Chuck puts his own agenda before everyone else's interests. Taken Up to Eleven when he punishes Ernesto for his good deeds and fires him.
  • Morality Chain: It's clear that Jimmy's main reason for trying to be a good guy is because he doesn't want to let Chuck down. The discovery that Chuck has been actively sabotaging his law career and refuses to see him as anything but Slippin' Jimmy the con artist is what makes Jimmy decide Then Let Me Be Evil.
  • Motive Rant: A combination of Jimmy bringing his ex-wife into the courtroom, Jimmy publicly exposing his EHS as a delusion, and another attorney implying he's schizophrenic sends Chuck over the deep end in front of the bar association, launching into a rant that makes his hatred of (and vendetta against) Jimmy plain for all to see.
  • Narcissist: Whether 'Team Chuck' likes it or not, he is this trope fair and square due to his Walter White-levels of Pride and Manipulative Bastard tendencies.
  • Never My Fault:
    • He fires Ernie for telling Jimmy about the Mesa Verde tape despite the fact that Chuck intentionally manipulated him into doing that. Justified in that Chuck is covering his tracks.
    • When he smacks Rebecca's phone out of her hand, instead of admitting this was due to his condition, he blames her for being 'rude' by answering a call during dinner.
    • When the Mesa Verde address mixup scheme happens, his first impulse is to say "No, my client is wrong, I'm right" before even doing a double-check on the numbers. Sure, the address really was tampered with, but if any other clerical error had happened, he'd probably have thrown his client under the bus on that too.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Chuck's continued campaign of betraying Jimmy forms one of the reasons, if not the primary one, he'll end up becoming Saul Goodman.
    • Chuck betraying Jimmy's trust and manipulating his emotions in the Mesa Verde saga seems to be a tipping point for Jimmy, leading him to become more ruthless and cynical in getting what he wants.
    • In season one, Jimmy tries to get Chuck to force HHM to buy him out, and separately to approve of Jimmy as a lawyer. Chuck, for his part, is more in love with his idealized view of the law in general, and his life's work with HHM in specific, to ever let Jimmy touch either. By the end of season three, and largely by his own petty jealousies, Chuck has sabotaged any future he has in law, has brought HHM to the brink of destruction, all the while ensuring Jimmy has no recourse but to be the kind of lawyer Chuck said he'd be.
  • Nice to the Waiter: He treats Ernesto like an errand boy and can be quite patronizing of people subservient to him. Those scenes happen after he reveals his pride and envy issues.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: A strong argument in favour of 'Team Chuck' would be that Jimmy has failed to completely throw away his conman ways even though Chuck pulled strings to get Jimmy out of prison for the 'Chicago sun roof incident'. The Sandpiper Commercial as well as the 'Fire Me' plan all but confirm this, along with the Mesa Verde scam which was the main trigger for Chuck using the 'confession tape' plan. Subverted in that Jimmy did clean up his act working in the mail room and it's only after Chuck's bad deeds that Jimmy reverted back to his conman ways.
  • Not So Different:
    • To at least one of the Hamlins: face and role turn out to be just as important to him when it comes to practicing law — maybe as much as the ethics.
    • Also, to Jimmy: both brothers can be dogged, hard-working, manipulative jerks with alternative agendas under likeable exteriors when they choose to be. And at the end of Season 2, Chuck proves that when properly motivated, he is able to play a con game with the best of them, even on his own brother.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: He insists that his actions are because he cares about the law and wants to prevent Jimmy from abusing it when it's obvious to everyone that it's really his pride and his refusal to share a profession with the brother he sees as a useless fuck-up.
  • Not Me This Time: Contrary to what Jimmy insists in 'Gloves Off', Howard is behind Kim being sent to Doc Review, not Chuck.
  • No Social Skills: While undoubtedly a brilliant and talented man, Chuck is somewhat lacking in social intelligence. This is in stark contrast to both his brother Jimmy and his law partner Howard. You can really see this come across during the scene in "Fifi", where he and Howard as a double-act convince Mesa Verde to come back to HMM.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Takes a neighbor's newspaper and leaves five dollars, even making sure the wind doesn't blow it away by placing a stone on top of it.
    • Seems to do this for Jimmy in Season 3, by suddenly suggesting that Kyra Hay offers his brother a deal in which he can avoid jail in exchange for confessing to the charges and throwing himself at the mercy of the state bar association. Subverted in that it's hinted that he's doing this for selfish motives (he doesn't want to die alone as Jimmy predicted) instead of any epiphany.
    • He gets Howard to let Kim out of Doc Review.
  • Psychopathic Man Child: His dedication towards taking Jimmy down for being good with people has got to be this! When he does lash out, such as screaming he didn't make mistakes or brings up Jimmy's favoritism, it shows that deep down, he didn't mature as much as he wants to appear.
  • Pride: Chuck has been actively undermining Jimmy's attempt at being a respected lawyer, believing that Jimmy simply doesn't deserve to be one considering all the work he's put himself through. In fact, Chuck is so concerned with not looking foolish in public that he leaves his protective "space blanket" in the car when he goes to confront the clerk at the photo copy center where Jimmy did his forgeries. Taken Up to Eleven in the Season 3 finale. He committed suicide by burning to death, presumably to make it look like an accident. Since he had no reason to be concerned about life insurance payouts, his only reason would be concern for his legacy. He'd rather suffer an excruciating death by fire than have everyone know that the great Charles McGill took "the coward's way out".
  • Pure Is Not Good: Chuck believes in the sanctity of law and that if used right, can help people out of several predicaments they might find themselves through no fault of their own. Chuck is also honorable in terms of refusing to sink down to outright illegal means to achieve something and will work hard for his client if push comes to shove. In terms of his history as a law entity, one would think Chuck to be nothing more than a respectable, caring individual whose biggest pride is to do a job the right way. However, since Chuck has a very clear-cut definition of what's right and wrong, he can often have a very different opinion when it comes to what's right for him and what's right for other people to do according to him. His sense of righteousness can reach such high standards that anything short is unforgivable and lacking in work ethic. Doing the right thing makes him think he can't do wrong as long as he keeps heading on toward what he believes to be the correct choice. And since he's often lavished and rarely makes a mistake in court, Chuck often buys into his own propaganda and plays the role while being flexible when it comes to personal matters. Last, Chuck is an honest attorney, but a very petty person.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • To Jimmy at the end of Season 1.
      Chuck: You're 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 shortcuts and you think suddenly you're my peer? You do what I do because you're funny and you can make people laugh? I committed my life to this! You don't slide into it like a cheap pair of slippers and then reap all the rewards!...I know you. 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.
    • And again, at the end of Season 3, as literally the last thing he ever says to his brother.
      Chuck: Jimmy, this is what you do. You hurt people over and over and over and then there's this show of remorse. I know you don't think it's a show, I don't doubt your emotions are real, but what's the point of all the sad faces and the gnashing of teeth? If you're not going to change your behavior, and you won't, why not just skip the whole exercise? In the end, you're going to hurt everyone around you. You can't help it. So stop apologizing and accept it, embrace it. Frankly, I'd have more respect for you if you did.
  • Retirony: Played with, technically he retired (albeit against his will) at the beginning of "Lantern" but he dies within 48 hours after his retirement was announced.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: This screws him over something fierce in season 3; he correctly realizes that Jimmy tampered with the documents, but he came to that conclusion not through logic or evidence, but because he would never make an error, so obviously, it must be Jimmy's fault. This is why Jimmy is able to frame Chuck's accusation as the conspiratorial paranoia of a mentally disturbed man with an inflated ego—because even though Chuck is right, he would have reached exactly the same conclusions if he were wrong.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: This is much of the tragedy of his relationship with Jimmy. Chuck believes that Jimmy can only ever be a crook and a conman, and doesn't deserve to be a respected lawyer. Because of this, he also goes out of his way to sabotage Jimmy and ensure that he has essentially no good routes to that position... which ensures that Jimmy pursues the bad routes, pushing him further and further into being a crook and a conman.
  • Shoot the Dog: Another possible explanation for Chuck witholding what their mother said before she died. Whatever the motive, it definitely makes the situation less awkward rather than if Chuck straight up told Jimmy, making the latter feel torn up inside for ages.
  • The Shut-In: In season 1, when his condition was at its worst. He would get around to keeping himself busy by catching up with work or simply playing music. Worse, his intolerance for electricity would be crippling in every way: long enough and he would pass out. This causes some major issues: since he can't go outside, Jimmy has to bring him groceries and provide for the bills; he won't quit HHM, so he keeps receiving a rather measly paycheck; and he won't tell anyone other than his brother of his condition, so he's left to his own devices. There's also the tasering incident when he went outside with the "space blanket" for the newspaper and the "not telling HHM's insurance of his condition".
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: With Jimmy for much of their lives. Chuck is intelligent, hard-working, admired by his colleagues but lacks in social skills and charisma. Jimmy is a hustler who has no interest in finding find steady work and operates well below his capabilities but is liked by people all the same for his charm and friendly, laid-back nature. Chuck is very attached to such a narrative and insists on holding on to it to protect his all-important pride. In the series, the contrast still stands. Jimmy knows exactly what kind of person he is while Chuck is heavily in denial and still sees himself as the noble, virtuous son.
  • Smart People Know Latin: He corrects Jimmy using a wrong Latin term while discussing a case. Justified: as a lawyer, Chuck would be expected to frequently use Latin terms.
  • Smug Snake: Whenever Chuck has an advantage over Jimmy or sees Jimmy fuck up, expect him to bring it up in the smuggest manner possible.
  • Static Character: Is concerned that Jimmy is this and is still Slippin' Jimmy beneath it all. In "Pimento", we learn it's more than a concern; he believes that people don't change.
  • Stupid Evil: Or stupid anti-villainy depending on how you view him. Although Chuck is a clever man regarding law, his plan to take Jimmy down does qualify for this trope. Jimmy, accurately, argues that Chuck's vendetta against him is this as he will deprive himself of a carer and eventually die of electromagnetic seizures, alone. And Jimmy would have probably got himself disbarred without help because of his ethics but Chuck harping on him not only made him stay a lawyer but removed a lot of Jimmy's morals.
  • Taking You with Me: Chuck intends to do this to HHM as of "Fall", when Howard tells him it might be best for Chuck to retire.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Now that his true colors have been revealed, he seems to be openly trying to sabotage Jimmy's new job at Davis and Main. He even shows up to joint meetings between them and HHM, seemingly just to mess with Jimmy. He is also really haughty toward Ernesto and Mesa Verde.
    • He sinks to new lows by the end of Season 2, when he becomes willing to exploit Jimmy's concern for his well-being in order to make him confess to the Mesa Verde forgeries.
    • For Season one and half of Season 2 he made his peace that Jimmy is a lawyer as long as it is small cases or elderly law outside his firm (he even refused Jimmy's deal to have him stop practicing law if he brought back Kim out of the archive room because it would be blackmailing), when he believed Jimmy is working with Kim he goes out of his way to take back Mesa Verde from her even though she did all the work to get them for HHM and scared the hell out of Howard and Ernesto when his condition kicked in. Then when he is rightfully convinced his brother forged his documents he tries every gray area he can find to make sure Jimmy is disbarred and takes pleasure from it.
  • Tinfoil Hat: Well, the tinfoil-style, thermal blanket wearer and cell phone thrower (with tongs) variety, at least. As yet, no actual hat has turned up, except metaphorically. As his condition improves and he is more comfortable leaving the house, the blanket is made into a lining for his suit jacket.
  • Theory Tunnelvision: Seems to suffer from this. He believes Jimmy (or people in general) cannot change, so Jimmy becoming a better man cannot be genuine, meaning it's just another of his cons and Jimmy hasn't really changed. Chuck needs to justify his belief that he is better than his brother so his resentment for Jimmy would be justified, even if only in his head.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: "Don't think I'll ever forget what happened here today. You will pay."
  • The Unfavorite: Seems to make up a major component of Chuck's resentment of Jimmy. He sometimes mentions how Jimmy is "good with people", typically in a sarcastic tone of voice which does nothing to hide the envy. We see Jimmy having dinner with him and his wife in a flashback, in which he appears increasingly uncomfortable at how well the other two get along. He also tells Kim a story about how Jimmy stole money from their father's business, yet their father refused to hear a negative word against him. Again, there's a strong tone of bitterness there. Especially after it's revealed that the story about their father is partially untrue, as he was a virtual ATM for very obvious grifters. However while Jimmy is a fun person to hang out with, Chuck is the one people respect the most (and H.H.M.'s ovation when he reenters the office shows they love him too), but Chuck can only see how people laugh along with Jimmy, regardless. To add a cherry to the top of the resentment sundae, we find out in the Season 2 finale that Chuck and Jimmy's mother's last words were her repeatedly calling for Jimmy, even though Chuck was by her side and Jimmy wasn't. However, it's implied that Chuck's resentment of Jimmy has more to do with his own insecurities than anything else, since he's been a hardworking, law-abiding man his entire life while Jimmy has been an irresponsible schmoozer and yet Jimmy is the one everybody enjoys.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Jimmy's been going above and beyond to help him survive despite his condition and is helping him slowly recover from his illness, but he's determined to keep Jimmy a failure in the law profession simply because he doesn't believe that his brother has reformed, despite all evidence to the contrary. He even exploited Jimmy's sympathy for his condition right after he released the temporary guardianship emergency. Even when Jimmy proved that he will never abuse Chuck's illness, the latter turned that kindness against him, although to be fair, Jimmy did gaslight him 2 episodes before.
    • While Chuck is arguably justified in firing Ernesto — who has twice chosen his loyalty to Jimmy over his duty to Chuck — his dropping Ernesto like a rock with no explanation certainly makes Chuck one of these.
    • Despite HHM accommodating his condition for several years, Chuck threatens to sue them to oblivion after Howard suggests he retire; a fair suggestion, given that his public blow-up at the Bar Association has made him a massive insurance liability.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Chuck intends his frequent manipulations against Jimmy to keep people safe, but his constant rejection instead ensured Jimmy viewed doing the right thing as a sucker's game. Had Chuck been supportive and respectful, Jimmy'd have been less likely to become Saul.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Chuck responds poorly to having his EMS exposed as purely a product of his mind during Jimmy's cross-examination, resulting in losing his cool and ranting before the entire court about how his brother is irredeemable and how he should have stopped him when he had the chance. Of course, given that literally everything he cited to justify Jimmy being disbarred is true, it's open to question as to whether he really qualifies as the villain.
    Chuck: I am not crazy! [chuckling] I am not crazy. I know he swapped those numbers. I knew it was 1216. One after Magna Carta. As if I could ever make such a mistake. Never. Never! I just, I just couldn't prove it. H-H-He covered his tracks. He got that idiot at the copy shop to lie for him.
    Alley: Mr. McGill, please. You don't have to go in —
    Chuck: 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, and 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 9, 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! [voice breaking] I should have stopped him when I had the chance! And you, you have to stop him!
    • The disastrous outcome of his testimony before the bar causes Chuck to hole himself up in the house and refuse to answer the door. Rebecca spends an hour knocking on the door, and Howard only compels Chuck to let him in when he says he won't leave until they've had a chance to talk.
  • Villainous Legacy: It's clear that his suicide and antics leading up to it have permanently changed the lives and mental states of Kim, Howard, and Jimmy for the worse.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: While it's arguable whether he is a "villain" in the traditional sense or not, Chuck's standing in society versus his private persona has heavy shades of this and is a big part of why he often acts in such an obnoxious manner. He is regarded in his profession and by his social contacts as a heavyweight intellectual, an excellent lawyer and a good man who is morally whiter than white. In private by contrast he is vindictive, unforgiving, petty and calculatingly cruel towards his own brother. While Jimmy is regarded by many as a sketchy guy but seems to have good intentions, Chuck mirrors this by being regarded as a stand-up guy despite his often malicious intent.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: His above-mentioned Villainous Breakdown shows shades of this.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real:
    • His sensitivity to electromagnetic field has no direct physical grounding and appears to be an extreme form of the nocebo effect. A doctor even demonstrated to Jimmy and Kim that he is unaffected by machines that he doesn't know are turned on. Chuck, however, treats it very seriously and refuses to have psychological tests run, as he believes it is a physical condition. Regardless of its origins, his condition has an extremely detrimental effect on his quality of life.
    • It's suggested that his denial of this fact stems in part from his ego: his condition has to be an untreatable ailment of the body, rather than a mental issue that could be corrected through therapy, because that would imply that Chuck's normally ironclad mental acuity and perceptions are vastly wrong. And furthermore, if it were a mental issue, then that would mean Chuck has been deluding himself and making the wrong decisions for years on end.


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