Jimmy McGill’s brother Chuck on Better Call Saul is suffering from a debilitating illness that is severely hindering his life, and preventing him from working. What’s wrong with Chuck, is he going to die? Is it all in his head?
The showrunners are giving us clues to what’s going on with Chuck McGill without actually saying a diagnosis. When Jimmy is fighting for his brother’s share of his firm, it sounds like he’s suffering from something like cancer, but when Jimmy visits Chuck’s house it’s apparent that something quite different is going on. He has to put his cell phone in the mail box, and “ground” himself by touching a metal spring before entering his brother’s electricity-free home where coolers full of ice, typewriters, and lanterns are used in lieu of modern conveniences.
Chuck is doing research on electromagnetic fields, and is convinced that he will “beat” his illness, but brother Jimmy isn’t so sure. He’s trying to get his brother to cash out of his company because he fears for both of their financial situations and doubts Chuck will ever be up to working again. One thing’s for sure, once we meet Jimmy’s alter-ego Saul in Breaking Bad, Chuck doesn’t seem to be in the picture for Saul. That still doesn’t mean that he’s dead, but it may mean there was some break between the brothers.
“This strange, kind of psycho-physical problem this man seems to have, it’s been intriguing to research,” Michael McKean, who plays Chuck, said. “Part of the fun is finding out what it is or learning what it is along with us.”
Online writers have been slinging away at diagnoses, though. Chuck’s been called a paranoid schizophrenic, though that might not be quite what’s going on. Esquire has deduced that it’s something electromagnetic hypersensitivity, a condition that feels very real to the sufferer, but there seem to be no real linl between electronic devices and physical symptoms.
After a drunken Jimmy forgets to “ground” his cell phone outside, Chuck seemed pained to even grab it with a pair of wooden tongs, and feels compelled to put on a metallic “space blanket” to protect himself. Jimmy gets angry at Chuck for using the space blanket, and a tense interchange between the brothers results in Chuck taking it off. There seems to be no real treatment for EHS, if that’s what Chuck has, other than focusing on treating the physical ailments, and downplaying their connection to electronic devices.