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|Better Call Saul character|
|First appearance||"Uno" (2015)|
|Nickname||Lord Vader (by Jimmy)|
|Family||George M. Hamlin (father)|
|Home||Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States|
Howard Hamlin is a fictional character who appears in the crime drama television series Better Call Saul, a spin-off prequel of Breaking Bad. He is portrayed by Patrick Fabian, and was created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould.
Hamlin is a foil for—and long-time antagonist of—Jimmy McGill, the lead and titular character of the series.
Jimmy spends bribe money from the Kettlemens on a makeover and billboard advertisement which shares obvious and deliberate similarities with Chuck's law firm, Hamlin Hamlin & McGill, presumably out of spite. Kim confronts Jimmy over the imitation, and Howard Hamlin brings Jimmy to court over the trademark infringement, in which he is ordered to have the advertisement removed within 48 hours. Jimmy is advised by Kim to take up elder law, Jimmy considers, but is interrupted when Kim takes a call from Hamlin saying that Chuck is in the hospital. There, Jimmy and Kim explain Chuck's condition to a skeptical doctor who proves that Chuck's electromagnetic hypersensitivity may not be genuine by flipping a switch under the hospital bed. She recommends Chuck be committed to a mental institution, but Jimmy initially decides to take him home.
However, Hamlin shows up and tells Jimmy that he has convinced the DA to make sure that Chuck is not committed. Jimmy is infuriated by Hamlin's greed, knowing that if Chuck were to be committed, Jimmy would become his legal guardian and thus have the authority to request and receive Chuck's severance payment from Hamlin's firm. Although he threatens to have Chuck committed just to scare Hamlin, he still ultimately decides to take him home. Jimmy and Chuck later return to HHM, where Howard prepares for their arrival by confiscating everybody's phones and shutting down the building's electricity. The entire staff then greet Chuck's return with a standing ovation.
Howard is confident that they have a strong case against Sandpiper Crossing and offers to give Jimmy twenty percent of the final settlement fees, as well as an of counsel fee of $20,000. However, he makes it clear that Jimmy will not be working on the case or with HHM. This angers Jimmy, who believes he is being left out and demands to know why he has repeatedly been excluded from the firm. When Howard does not answer his questions, Jimmy decides not to release the case to HHM.
Kim confronts Howard about his refusal to allow Jimmy into the firm. Howard is at first resistant, but he decides to tell Kim the truth. Jimmy returns to HHM, where he goes through with the deal and hands over the case to them, revealing that he figured out Chuck's involvement. Howard apologizes to Jimmy for being hostile and gives Jimmy his of counsel fee of $20,000. Jimmy also requests Howard take over buying Chuck's groceries and daily newspapers. Howard is duly impressed with the amount of care Jimmy had shown to Chuck over the past year.
Jimmy leaves Kim an urgent voicemail requesting that she call him before speaking to Howard about his commercial. However Jimmy was too late because at that moment, Kim is down at HHM, already being grilled by Howard and Chuck over her failure to warn them about Jimmy's commercial. Not wanting to put Jimmy under more stress, she explains that she didn’t think it was necessary to give them a heads up.
A furious Howard reprimands her because of the actions Jimmy caused. Jimmy meets Kim in the HHM document room and proposes that she sue HHM. Kim rejects this idea, pointing out how that would be career suicide and tells Jimmy to worry about his own job while she worries about hers. Kim goes to announce her resignation from HHM to Howard. Howard accepts Kim's resignation, wishes her well and they both shake hands.
Immediately after Kim exits Howard's office, they both race to secure the Mesa Verde account. Kim meets with the Mesa Verde boss and his chief legal counsel; the meeting ends with Mesa Verde's stated intention to become Kim's first solo client. Kim then agrees with Jimmy to set up their practices in a re-purposed dentists' office. Howard reports Kim's resignation, the loss of Mesa Verde and her teaming with Jimmy to Chuck.
Alarmed, Chuck arranges a "final, tie up loose ends" meeting with Mesa Verde and masterfully damns Kim with faint praise enough to change Mesa Verde's boss's mind, whereupon he decides to stay with HHM. However, forcing himself to appear normal in the HHM office environment, without "protection" from everyday office electromagnetic radiation leads to Chuck's collapse In the aftermath of the meeting.
Chuck plays Jimmy's confession to Hamlin. While he is taken aback, Hamlin questions what the tape can accomplish given the nature in which the confession was elicited, the ways in which Jimmy could deny it being his voice, and the unlikelihood that it would bring Mesa Verde back to HHM. Chuck, with a smirk, assures him that it has a use. It is later "accidentally" played by Ernesto when he changes the batteries in the tape recorder. Chuck quickly turns it off and makes Ernesto promise not to tell anything that he heard to anyone on the premise of confidentiality.
At Chuck's house, Howard sneaks over several walls to be let in through the back door. Chuck reveals to Howard that he intentionally allowed Ernesto to hear the tape, knowing he would reveal this to Jimmy. Chuck plans to have Jimmy arrested for criminal theft, predicting the latter would break into his house to destroy the tape. To everyone's shock, an enraged Jimmy shows up at Chuck's house at that very moment. Jimmy kicks down Chuck's door and screams at him for pulling that "heartstrings con job" on him. He pries open the desk drawer and destroys the tape. He threatens to “burn the whole goddamn house to the ground” to find any possible copies.
However, Jimmy falls for Chuck's trap: Howard and David make their presence known, and declare themselves witnesses to Jimmy's crimes. As the hearing begins, Kim and the bar's attorney make their opening statements, with Kim asserting that the real story is the feud between Jimmy and Chuck. Howard testifies first, explaining Jimmy's history at HHM and that Chuck did not want to take Jimmy on as a lawyer, claiming that Chuck acted against Jimmy to avoid an appearance of nepotism. However, Kim points out Howard himself is the son of HHM's founding partner. Jimmy's confession tape is soon played before the panel presiding over the case. Meanwhile, Howard drives Chuck to the courthouse where the latter bumps into Huell Babineaux in the stairwell, who slips a cell phone battery into his jacket, later leading to Chuck's breakdown in front of the hearing officers. Howard is horrified by Chuck's breakdown and later informs Chuck that Jimmy's law license has been suspended for a year and tries to put a good spin on things for him.
In the aftermath of the bar hearing, word gets out about Chuck's breakdown in court to HHM's clients, its malpractice insurance agency, and Paige from Mesa Verde. As a result, HHM's reputation is badly mangled and Howard is forced to do damage control with his clients. During one such business meeting, he spots Kim with Kevin and Paige from Mesa Verde and makes the lunch awkward with his interruption. Kim then tries to pay Howard back the rest of her law school loan, but he rejects the check and angrily berates her for the position that Kim has put Howard and HHM in. As Kim drives away, Howard rips up the check and tells her that her debt is forgiven but that everything else is on Kim.
Howard and Chuck meet with their insurance agency, who propose either raising HHM's premium or have Chuck be subjected to full-time supervision. Chuck refuses to negotiate and instead decides to fight the insurance company in court. This proves to be the last straw for Howard, who informs Chuck that he will be forced to retire since his judgment can no longer be trusted. Chuck responds by suing HHM for $8 million, the value of his share of the practice.
Meanwhile, Chuck confronts Howard and promises to abandon his breach of contract lawsuit against HHM in return for keeping his position with the firm. Instead, Howard presents a severance check taken from his own personal funds, neutralizing Chuck's financial leverage over HHM. Howard calls out Chuck for putting his personal vendettas ahead of the firm and betraying their friendship in the process. Chuck is forced to watch as Howard informs HHM's staff of his immediate departure. He is sent off with applause as he leaves the building. A few days later, Chuck kills himself by burning down his house.
Howard is the emergency contact that the police notify once Chuck is identified. He also contacts Jimmy and Kim to inform them of Chuck's death. Over the following week, Howard crafts an obituary for Chuck and later invites many of Chuck's former colleagues and friends to his memorial service. After the service, he privately meets with Jimmy and Kim and confesses to them the truth about the insurance rate hike, and how that may have driven Chuck to suicide (unaware of Jimmy's role). Jimmy, relieved that someone else is taking responsibility for Chuck, responds by throwing the guilt back in Howard's face. Subsequent episodes feature a very different and more subdued Howard who is burdened by guilt. As well, HHM starts to fall apart from a combination of having to pay out to Chuck's estate and its damaged reputation from the events of the previous seasons. Howard is forced to lay a lot of people off and makes it clear to Jimmy that he has no plan to fix things. Calling Howard a lousy lawyer, Jimmy tells him that Howard is a great businessman and finding a way to save HHM should be his priority.
In Better Call Saul, Hamlin is portrayed as cocky, arrogant and self-centered. However, many fans of the show believe that Howard is actually a good person. Patrick Fabian commented by saying "You know, Jimmy called Howard 'Lord Vader' in the very first episode of Better Call Saul. And when the lead character calls your character Lord Vader, the audience goes, 'Wow, what a dick that guy's gonna be.' Then everybody starts looking at everything that falls out of my mouth as evidence backing that claim up. And even when it goes in the opposite direction -- like at the end of Season 1, where it turns out I was sort of protecting Jimmy from Chuck, there is a bit of a hitch of 'Oh, maybe Howard's not so bad,' but as soon as I was quote-unquote being a dick to Kim in Season 2, they all got back on board and said, 'Yeah, he's Lord Vader.' I'm not complaining at all. It sort of parallels Howard's character in the show. Who's really supporting his point of view? Nobody. He's kind of on an island all to himself, saying 'This is not fair. This is not right. And it's also not my fault.' We'll see where those chickens come home to roost, as they say." Fabian has compared Hamlin to Peter Pan, saying, "I think of him as sort of a Peter Pan, living a great existence and then these McGill Brothers [...] are sort of mucking it all up."
- Gomez, Adrian. "'Better Call Saul' actor Patrick Fabian discusses character Howard Hamlin". www.abqjournal.com.
- "Why Better Call Saul's Howard Isn't Really A Villain, According To Patrick Fabian". cinemablend.com. June 14, 2017.
- Teti, John. "Is Better Call Saul's Howard Hamlin a dick or not?". tv.avclub.com. Retrieved July 31, 2018.