Welcome back to our weekly breakdown of the minutia of Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s Better Call Saul. While Brian Grubb provides his always excellent coverage of the series (here’s his write-up of the most recent episode), here we will look at some of the details viewers may have missed, callbacks to Breaking Bad, references to other shows or movies, and theories on the direction the series is heading. We scour Reddit threads, Twitter, listen each week to the phenomenal Better Call Saul Insider Podcast, and attempt to curate the best intel about each episode.
In this week’s episode, “Smoke,” Jimmy grapples with the death of his brother, Chuck, and Mike gets a new job.
1. Schmuck Bait — On the Insider podcast, Vince Gilligan and Co., said that they gave some thought to bringing Chuck back for a fourth season, but didn’t seriously entertain it, because they’re not fans of “schmuck bait,” a term I had not heard used before. It refers to the act of giving the illusion of killing someone off at the end of one episode only to see the character survive in the next episode. So, basically, what The Walking Dead does twice a season.
2. Why Did They Kill Off Chuck?
Peter Gould said that they basically made the decision after “Chicanery,” the episode in which Jimmy gets the better of Chuck at the bar hearing. The reason they said it was necessary is because they didn’t want the show to become a series of escalating tits for tats between Chuck and Jimmy, in which they took turns getting the best of each other. It has been fun watching Jimmy and Chuck scheme against one another, but it’s true that the series would need to move past that before Jimmy could transform into Saul.
Speaking of Chuck’s death, Gould noted that when he called Michael McKean to give him the news, he was driving and joked, “If this is going to be the death call, I think I need to pull over,” and Gould was like, “Well, er. Uh.”
Also, four seasons in, it only just now occurs to me that, as Jimmy’s sibling, Michael McKean literally plays a Brother Chuck.