Cars in Art: Better Call Saul
The casting in Better Call Saul is always spot on, right down to the cars. Everything that appears on screen is intentional. The cars of Better Call Saul stand alone as pieces of art, and add dimension to the characters who drive them. They are important elements in a show where the characters are always on the move, navigating the cities and deserts of New Mexico. I wanted to explore some of my favorite cars on the show, and the impact they have on our understanding of character.
(spoilers for all seasons of Better Call Saul below)
Nacho's 1973 AMC Javelin AMX
One of the most stand-out cars in the series is driven by one of its most reserved characters. Nacho is composed, quiet, calculating. He gives nothing away. He blends in; his car does not. The Javelin is the only thing about Nacho that isn't subtle.
The Javelin is a unique vehicle, with only about 30,000 produced. It is a collector's item, a coveted addition to any collection. Nacho obviously prizes his car, which is always spotless and well-kept. Nacho is often dressed in red, and his signature color is reflected in his choice of car.
The parallel to Nacho's Javelin is Mike's '74 AMC Matador from his police days, seen in a flashback to his son's childhood. Both the Javelin and Matador were used at times as police vehicles. Perhaps coincidentally (though nothing is a coincidence in this series), the AMC shares the name of the network on which Better Call Saul airs.
Hector's 1960 Chevrolet Impala
Hector's Impala is an old-school, classy ride. Hector is not classy. He is stubborn, rude, set in his ways. The suntan copper color of his Impala is nostalgic and warm, evoking a simpler time. Nothing about Hector is warm or nostalgic. Once again, we see a car that is at odds with its driver, and yet fits them perfectly. The Impala gives an impression of grandeur, complimenting Hector's grandiose idea of himself.
Lalo's 1970 Monte Carlo
Lalo doesn't treat his car as preciously as other characters treat theirs. He uses his vehicle. He races it, he shoves troublesome drivers aside with it. The car might have sentimental value to him (Lalo is a sentimental guy) but he isn't afraid to get it dirty. He is as seemingly carefree with his car as he is in life.
Lalo is one of the most colorful characters in the show, from his turquoise loafers to his outrageous personality, yet his vehicle of choice is a flat gray. Just as Nacho's bright Javelin supplements his quiet nature, Lalo's car shows a more composed side. The Monte Carlo is a badass car, dark and intimidating. It provides a glimpse into Lalo's serious nature. Outwardly, Lalo puts on a fun and reckless attitude. Inside, he is all business, and his car shows it.
Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad drives an '82 Monte Carlo that is almost the polar opposite of Lalo's car, a red low rider equipped with hydraulics and "THE CAPN" emblazoned on its license plate. This prequel compliment to Jesse's ride is far more refined.
Arturo's 1969 Oldsmobile 442
Arturo is flashy, boastful, and greedy. He comes to a bad end, and so does his car: shot full of holes and burned on the side of a lonely road. The Oldsmobile is slick, speedy, and silver-gray with a shock of red across the hood. The profile view of the car does not betray the vibrant hood or all-red interior. It could almost be two different vehicles.
Like many of the cars in the show, the Oldsmobile, too, has a counterpoint. Jimmy McGill drove a 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme that he passed on to his old partner in crime, Marco. This car, too, falls into disrepair, tinged with rust in its original owner's absence.
The cars of Better Call Saul add depth to the characters and atmosphere of the show. There's something thrilling about the sight of cartel muscle cars speeding down ranch roads and desert highways all over New Mexico. They perfectly accent the bleak, violent environments that surround them. These characters know how to travel the desert in style.