Screens: AMC

Chuck Learns The Hard Way That It Doesn't Always Pay To Be Informed

News junkies: take note.

The thing about Chuck McGill's theft of a neighbour's newspaper at the end of the last Better Call Saul is that, if you think it through from his perspective, it's completely justified. Chuck is a person who, if you ask him, describes himself as living with a physical illness -- one that's poorly understood, but very real. Having sworn off electricity and all communication devices, Chuck has one connection to the outside world, and when his brother failed to supply one of Chuck's essential needs -- his local newspaper -- Chuck had to take extreme measures. Why should his neighbour call the cops on him when (a) she could clearly see he took it under extreme duress/a space blanket, and (b) he left her $5 -- far more than the cost of the paper itself?

Of course, to someone who doesn't know Chuck's story and thus have a lot more empathy for him, like the neighbour or the cops who took her call, Chuck's action is a lot more alarming. From the neighbour's perspective, a pleasant morning was interrupted by a silvery apparition scuttling onto her property. And from the cops' perspective, when they knock on his door, is that Chuck is weirdly argumentative for someone who committed pretty much the pettiest of crimes...and the evidence they can glean from peering in an uncovered window is alarming out of context.

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Honestly, the context we know doesn't make it much more understandable.

The next time we see Chuck, he's having the worst experience imaginable: restrained in a hospital, surrounded by and/or hooked up to machines, bathed in electric light.

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Chuck's distress is so acute that by the time Jimmy reaches him, he's paralyzed with horror; it's only after Jimmy is able to advocate for him by asking Dr. Cruz, who's treating Chuck, to turn all the lights off, disconnect Chuck, and leave her phone and pager outside the room that Chuck recovers enough to speak up when she recommends having him committed to a facility: "I'd rather not." Once Chuck can describe his own condition, explaining "electromagnetic sensitivity" to Dr. Cruz -- who's not familiar, if you can imagine that -- he's actually convincing in making a case for its being physical and not, as she thinks, mental: he correctly discerns that she still has a battery-operated thermometer in her pocket. His own self-assessment later hits a snag he doesn't know about, which is the point...

Gif: Previously.TV

Gif: Previously.TV

...and before long, Chuck's not-so-scrupulous former law partner Howard -- still Chuck's emergency contact, somehow -- has shown up, announcing that he's already made sure the DA won't sign off on any commitment papers for Chuck. Once again, Chuck has turned into a bargaining chip between men who, though they may really love Chuck in their own ways, also have financial interests in managing Chuck...or what Chuck has become. Jimmy, naturally, has Chuck's actual interests at heart, and brings Chuck home in the end. But now that there's more of a paper trail, including a physician's recommendation as to Chuck's care, Chuck's ability to determine his own fate may be further constricted in the weeks or months to come.

Photo: Fox

Photo: Fox

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