Fearing for Chuck McGill in the Better Call Saul season finale

After a tough-to-watch mental breakdown earlier this season, Chuck McGill has made great strides in his rehabilitation. So why are we nervous for him ahead of Monday’s Better Call Saul season finale, Lantern?

Better Call Saul’s third season has been one of ups and downs for Chuck McGill. After pulling one over on his brother in the season’s early episodes, Chuck reached rock-bottom by mid-season. However, in the wake of his humiliation, Chuck has rebounded not only to normal, but is actually conquering his “illness.” Despite the recent positive energy, we’re forecasting a rough finale for the elder McGill brother. Here are a few reasons why:

Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) in Episode 10 Photo by Michele K. Short/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

 McKean’s warning

Before Better Call Saul’s third season even began, Michael McKean issued a warning to fans. We discussed it back in April, but when talking about his character, McKean said “don’t get too attached.” It’s hard not to interpret this as Chuck’s time on the show is short. Could Monday’s episode be a series wrap on Chuck McGill? Will it set up his departure next season?

The finale’s title

Lantern. Dating back to Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have had a habit of giving their show’s episodes evocative titles. Personally, Face Off and Ozymandias immediately come to mind. However, every episode of Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad’s titles have carried significant meaning. Sometimes these meanings are figurative, sometimes literal. Hopefully, for Chuck’s sake, the meaning is not literal.

When thinking of lanterns in Better Call Saul, something immediately comes to mind, the lanterns that Chuck uses rather than conventional lighting. Assuming the worst for Chuck McGill, one of his lanterns could spark a deadly house fire. In building his case against Chuck’s sanity, Jimmy contracted Mike to take pictures of his living conditions. Chief among these photos was one of a lantern on a stack of newspapers.

Now, you might be thinking, “Chuck is back to normal lighting, lanterns are in the past.” I’ll admit that this is true…at the moment. However, I could see a number of scenarios where Chuck regresses and returns to old habits. In Slip, Dr. Cruz advises Chuck to take his rehabilitation slow and to manage his expectations. His words and actions following that indicate that the advice went in one ear and out the other. Between his rushing, his deteriorating relationship with Howard and an insurance company breathing down his neck, Chuck is a major risk for relapse.

Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) in Episode 6 Photo by Michele K. Short/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

Jimmy’s prophecy

After his brother tricked him and had him arrested, Jimmy lays out Chuck’s future as such:

Here’s what’s gonna happen. One day you’re gonna get sick, again. And one of your employees is gonna find you, curled up in that space blanket-take you to the hospital. Hook you up to those machines that beep and whir, and hurt. And this time it will be too much, and you will die there. Alone. – Jimmy McGill (Better Call Saul 303: Sunk Costs).

Though I don’t think it’ll play out exactly this way (that would be a bit too on the nose and come off as odd), there may be some truth in Jimmy’s prediction. Having alienated himself from friends and family, Chuck is alone. A lantern burning his house down would only affect Chuck. Yes, this would make for a grim finale, but I wouldn’t put it past Better Call Saul’s team of writers.

If this plays out accordingly, we could see a bit of history repeat itself. Back in season two’s Rebecca, Chuck warns Kim about the dangers of being involved with Jimmy. In doing so, he reveals that Jimmy’s thievery from their family business led to its ruin. He also notes that shortly after the business closing, their father died, and at the funeral “no one cried harder than Jimmy.” If Chuck were to perish, I feel safe in assuming that Jimmy would be the most distraught.; even if on some minuscule level, Jimmy is responsible.

Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) and Marco Pasternak (Mel Rodriguez) in Episode 8 Photo by Michele K. Short/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

This concludes our dark theory on the major twist of Better Call Saul’s season three finale. On a personal level, I really hope I’m wrong. Chuck McGill is a great character and Michael McKean has done an amazing job breathing life into him. It would be a shame if the series went forward without him. However, if I am correct, I know the writer’s room will make it an unforgettable and series-defining moment.