Now that the fiery sibling rivalry of the Brothers McGill has been extinguished — R.I.P., Chuck — it’s time to sift through the ashes and assess the collateral damage suffered by Jimmy. Will this tragic turn of events in the season 4 finale of AMC’s Better Call Saul accelerate the transformation of the shifty, scrappy suspended lawyer (who hardly walked the straight and narrow like his older brother) into the downright shady Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), as seen on Breaking Bad? How critical is his relationship with Kim (Rhea Seehorn) now that Chuck (Michael McKean) is gone? How scared should Nacho (Michael Mando) be now that Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) has him in his sights? And how much will the world of Breaking Bad encroach upon this sly prequel? Before season 4 of Saul takes the stand on Aug. 6 at 9 p.m. ET, let’s depose co-creator Peter Gould.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Jimmy’s reaction to Chuck’s death is going to be intriguing — if not surprising. Would you describe it as more repression than depression?
PETER GOULD: I have to say: Jimmy’s reaction to Chuck’s death was maybe the most difficult thing we had to figure out this season. This was the thing that we spent the most time on in the writers’ room, and I would also say that the moments when the characters surprise us are the moments that I treasure, and Jimmy rocked me this year. His reaction to Chuck’s death is not at all what I expected. I don’t think it’s going to be what the audience is expecting. Not exactly. It is interesting and opens up a really different view in Jimmy McGill, and also into the man who will become Saul Goodman.
How will Jimmy’s relationship with Kim be impacted by how he processes Chuck’s death?
Jimmy McGill is a guy who has two pivotal relationships in his life — two people who he cares about deeply and, in their own way, who care about him deeply — and it’s Chuck and Kim. And he’s lost Chuck. Although, in a strange way, Charles McGill’s shadow hangs over everything that happens this season in many ways, both obvious and surprising. There are ways in which the places that we take [Jimmy and Kim] this season go to a deeper level than we’ve ever gone before. They really are behaving unlike any characters I’ve seen on TV before. I think it’s exciting, and it’s also heartbreaking. This incredible loss that Jimmy has — and all the complicated feelings he has about his brother — if he tries to pretend that they have no effect, then that means the effect is going to be seen in some very surprising places.
How much of Chuck will we see, presumably in flashbacks? Many viewers hated this character, but in that final season — and thanks to Michael McKean’s performance — there seemed to be some re-evaluation. And maybe there’s more to come.
I will say when the time came to decide that Chuck was going to die in season 3, that was maybe the most difficult decision I’ve ever been part of in the writers’ room. It was something that we struggled with. We kept trying to find a way around it, and part of the reason was that we love Chuck McGill — as funny as that sounds — and writing that character was fascinating to us.
Also, the idea that we weren’t going to have Michael McKean around in Albuquerque was also just awful. The one thing that left a little crack of sunlight for me anyway is the fact that on this show we sometimes see people who have passed on. We haven’t seen the last of Michael McKean on the show. There’s still more to say about that character.
In the last speech that Chuck gave to Jimmy, he said, “You’re going to hurt everyone around you. You can’t help it. So stop apologizing. Accept and embrace it.” Those seem to be such haunting words that presumably would hang over season 4. Is he acting out against those words, or is there a resignation and an acceptance of that in season 4?
What an interesting question. Is that a prediction that Chuck is making, or is he putting a curse on Jimmy’s head? That’s something that we think about a lot, and it comes down to a fundamental question: how much of who we are is determined just by the nature of things, by the world, by our own internal makeup, and how much comes out of the decisions that we make? People have a choice about who they’re going to be. Nobody is so far gone that they don’t have the opportunity to change their path.
Much of season 4 is about Jimmy’s desire to fit into the world and to play the game the way he knows it’s supposed to be played, but sometimes that doesn’t go along or correspond to his abilities. Jimmy McGill, for better or for worse, is a man who can always see the shortest distance between two points. There’s another aspect to him this season, which is there’s an anger in this character that I don’t know that I’ve seen before in Bob’s performance. Even in some very lighthearted moments, there’s an inner discomfort. There’s a rage that pops up, and it’s not always completely logical.
What themes echo through season 4?
Where do we have a responsibility to other people as opposed to our own desires, wants, and needs? What do we owe society as a whole versus our own particular interests? What makes a person good or evil? Is it a choice, or is it in their nature? And also: the price of deception and the price of pretending to be something that you’re not.
How will Jimmy bide his time in season 4 while he’s suspended from the law. Can we assume that he’ll be brushing up against more people in the underworld?
Absolutely. You’ll see Jimmy interacting with people in the underworld in a way that we’ve never seen before. You’re going to see some familiar faces in Jimmy’s world and also in Gus Fring’s world. I think there are some moments that people are really going to love, especially people who’ve watched and enjoyed Breaking Bad. One of the great things about Jimmy McGill is he’s comfortable in many different circumstances, and you’re going to see him in some very extreme circumstances…. Jimmy takes some risks this season. There’s no question, and he deals with people who a lot of folks would cross the street to avoid. If you’ve watched the previous seasons closely, you will have more than a clue about where this guy is going to go when it comes time to get a job that doesn’t involve being a lawyer.
NEXT PAGE: Gould drops hints about each character — how close we get to the Breaking Bad timeline