‘Better Call Saul’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ Include Serious Car Symbolism, From Jimmy McGill’s Suzuki Esteem to Walter White’s Pontiac Aztec
There’s plenty of symbolism is the Breaking Bad universe that only the most perceptive fans will notice. But besides these Easter eggs, there are more obvious details that lend meaning to all three shows: Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. For example, all the cars in both shows are incredibly meaningful. And El Camino? That’s literally the name of a car.
Walter White, Jimmy McGill (who later becomes Saul Goodman), and plenty of other characters express themselves through their vehicles and send silent messages based on what they’re driving.
From Walt upgrading his ride to Jimmy’s beloved Suzuki Esteem getting shot up — and ultimately blowing the cover off his alibi to Lalo — here’s how cars help shape every event in the Breaking Bad storyline.
Walter White upgrades from a Pontiac Aztec to a Chrysler 300 SRT8
Breaking Bad is, at heart, the story of a man who is destroyed by his greed and quest for power no matter the consequences. To help illustrate just how average Walter White is at the beginning of the series, the writers had him drive a completely ordinary and slightly nerdy Pontiac Aztec. As Walt becomes more and more involved with the drug cartels, his choice of a vehicle becomes more and more ridiculous.
Plus, the ugliness of the Aztec helps drive home just how much Walt gave up when he sold his stake in Gray Matter, the billion-dollar company he helped create. Walt sold his share for a mere $5,000, making it extra tragic that he’s driving an Aztec when he should be able to afford a luxury ride.
Eventually, Walt makes enough money — and has enough ego — that he feels the need to upgrade. He opts for a sleek Chrysler 300 SRT8, which suits his drug manufacturer status a lot better. All it takes is a vehicle upgrade to fully usher in the age of Heisenberg.
Walt buys his son a Dodge Challenger, and Skyler freaks out
When Walt was just a high school chemistry teacher, he was a lot more cautious in general, including when he was setting down rules for his teenaged son, Walt Jr. But after Walt enters a life of crime and begins making meth — and making money —he throws caution to the wind and purchases a brand new Dodge Challenger for Walt Jr. just because he can.
As expected, his wife Skyler freaks out and makes Walt trade the car in for a much more practical PT Cruiser. But the incident serves to highlight how Walt is no longer thinking clearly when it comes to his family. All he sees is status and power.
Jimmy McGill loses a piece of his identity when he junks the Suzuki Esteem
The spinoff prequel Better Call Saul explores Saul Goodman’s backstory, including his piece of crap Suzuki Esteem that he refuses to upgrade even when he starts making more money. The car takes on special significance in season 5 when Jimmy insists he’s safe from being robbed while picking up Lalo Salamanca’s $7 million worth of bail money all because of his car.
“There has never been more than 50 bucks in an Esteem in the history of Esteems,” Jimmy says while trying to convince Kim that he’ll be safe with the cash. But then Jimmy does get robbed, his car gets shot, and Mike forces him to abandon his beloved mode of transportation and push it into a ditch.
Later, Jimmy tells Lalo his car broke down and that’s why he took so long turning in the bail money. But when Lalo finds the abandoned vehicle riddled with bullet holes, he knows Jimmy is lying and confronts him.
By the time we meet Saul in Breaking Bad he’s driving a much different car — a Cadillac DeVille with that custom LWYRUP license plate.
Jesse’s El Camino is his ticket to freedom
Todd Alquist’s 1978 Chevrolet El Camino has seen some very shady dealings, including having his housekeeper’s dead body rolled up in the trunk. But it also becomes one of the most important cars in the show when Jesse uses it to drive through the gates of the white supremacist compound where he was being held prisoner after Walt killed Uncle Jack and his crew.
In El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, Jesse takes the car to Skinny Pete’s house and has him hide it. Then he has Skinny Pete lure the cops away from his location by having Pete drive it to the Mexico border, knowing the police are tracking it via the Lo-Jack.
The name “El Camino” references the car, but it also means “the road,” or “the way.”
Other cars in the ‘Breaking Bad’ universe
In Breaking Bad, cars are much more than just cars — they’re reflective of the people who drive them. For example, Mike Ehrmantraut has a “don’t mess with me” Chrysler Fifth Avenue that perfectly suits his personality.
At the beginning of the series, Jesse drives a Monte Carlo with the license plate “THE CAPN,” which is precisely what leads the DEA to catch him cooking meth with Emilio. He later begins driving the more non-descript 1986 Toyota Tercel to hide his drug dealer status.
Drug kingpin Gus Fring drives a practical, non-descript Volvo V70. This fits his intentions perfectly since he’s known for hiding in plain sight as a local business owner by day and murderous cartel boss by night. There’s no way he’d drive a flashy, look-at-me car, even though he can afford one.
There are no wasted details in Breaking Bad. Even the cars provide deeper insight into the characters’ motivations and inner workings. It’s all just more proof that the Breaking Bad universe is one of the most complex, well-planned fictional worlds ever created.