It’s over. After five years of elaborate lies, meth cooks, tense conversations over breakfast and some of the most ‘wtf?’ moments in television history (remember the exploding tortoise?), Breaking Bad finally came to its incredible conclusion last month, and it’s a tough show to let go.
One of the best aspects of the show was its incredibly detailed use of symbolism. The show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, has stated that a lot of what is seen in the show is very meticulously planned, making Breaking Bad a great show for the armchair detective. The internet was rife with sleuths trying to predict the show’s twists and turns between episodes based on camera angles, prop placement and the colour of certain character’s clothes.
What is often ignored is the choice of cars in the show. There is a surprising amount of vehicle action in Breaking Bad when you look back on its entirety. In fact, the final shoot out of the show is performed from the trunk of Walter’s last ride.
If your week has been feeling a little bit emptier without your fix of nail-biting tension, we’re here to treat you into an insight of the cars of Breaking Bad.
The show’s pilot depicted Walter White as a sympathetic and pathetic figure, a brilliant mind that never reached its potential, working two jobs, quiet and submissive, one of the world’s losers.
And what does a loser drive? One of the worst cars in American history of course! Walter White’s light green Pontiac Aztek might be a reliable ‘baby boomer’ car, but it’s also one of the ugliest cars on the market. Time magazine memorably said about the Aztek: “This car could not have been more instantly hated if it had a Swastika tattoo on its forehead.” Walt’s unloved Aztek took a number of bashings, from a replacement wheel to a broken windshield, representing his detieriorating state of mind.
There’s debate as to when Walter White embodied his drug dealing alter ego Heisenberg, but a strong case can be made for the moment when Walt sells his bulky, ugly Aztek for a much slicker Chrysler 300 SRT8. Bought on the eve of his 51st birthday as a gift to himself, Walt’s new ride couldn’t be more different from his old, bashed up banger: high-grade, swish, and painted in a shiny obsidian black. Green represents greed and desperation on the show, but black represents evil, and the car partnered with Walt’s hat and sunglasses means his super bad drug lord alter ego is complete.
Jesse’s car evolution is the exact opposite as Walter’s. Where Heisenberg upgrades, Jesse downgrades from a Chevrolet Monte Carlo in a cherry red finish (red indicating danger and agression in the show) to a much more inconspicuous 1986 Toyota Tercel. The Monte Carlo is noted for its ridiculous suspension system, making it a favourite for wannabe rappers and low level drug dealers across America. The Tercel, however, is much more functional, the family sized four door is sold to Jesse in a dirt-stained burgundy colour.
You can’t write about vehicles in Breaking Bad without mentioning The Krystal Ship, Walt and Jesse’s bullet riddled RV, which became a character in itself. The Fleetwood Bounder can be read as a symbol for Walter and Jesse’s friendship. When it worked, it worked really well, and when it broke down, it was deadly. Acting as a mobile meth lab from the first episode, the rickety RV is purchased by Walt’s tiny life savings and starts a multi-million meth empire. It’s eventually destroyed in season 3 where its status as the only unregistered RV in the city makes it a target for Hank. Dirty, covered in holes and with a 50/50 chance of starting, the RV had a strange sentimental value and seeing it get crushed actually causes a lump in the throat.
In a memorable episode, Walt ‘Flynn’ Jr is given a car for his 16th birthday. But much to his dismay, it’s a 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser, hardly the thing of teenage dreams. Racked with guilt and wanting to spend at least a bit of his meth millions, Walt blows his drug money on a brand new Dodge Challenger for little Flynn. Black with red racing stripes, the car represents folly and recklessness. This is definitely one of the points where Walter lets his mask slip and the money-driven Heisenberg shines through. Skyler forces Walt to take the car back, and Walt blows it up in an act of rebellious defiance.
So much detail is poured into the show, that even the more minor characters drive very carefully chosen vehicles. Drug kingpin Gustavo Fring drives one of the world’s safest and most reliable cars – the Volvo V70. Hardly the choice of an overlord, but that’s exactly the kind of image Gus needs to project. The black colour represents his coldness and the evil that lurks inside him.
Marie Shrader’s car is only seen once during the course of the whole show, in the pilot episode, but it still perfectly matches her personality. A feminine Volkswagen New Beetle, painted in the same regal shade of purple that she wears in nearly every episode. Purple is connected to innocence and naivety in the show.