We're only two episodes in, and already AMC's new Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul is turning out to be brilliant television. However — and I'm really sorry to have to do this — I'm going to have to call out the show on a questionable car choice.
Before we set off, I should caution you to tread lightly: this article may contain spoilers.
Set in the year 2002, six years before the events of Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul follows the transformation of downtrodden public defender James "Jimmy" Morgan McGill into the sleazebag criminal lawyer known as Saul Goodman. When we first meet Jimmy McGill, we see him defending three boys on trial; the trial ending with McGill failing to get the trio off the hook. It's after the trial is over, and he leaves court, we see him heading for his car: a decrepit and grungy Suzuki Esteem sedan.
McGill's old Suzuki wears a coat of heavily oxidized yellow paint, save for one dull red passenger-side door. Every body panel is scuffed and scarred, and the exhaust pipe pours a deathly black smoke when the tired engine decides to start. But in spite of the Suzuki's overwhelming aura of shittiness, there's a plucky quality about it. You just can't help but to like the little turd.
Much like how the fern green Pontiac Aztek perfectly fit a pre-Hisenberg Walter White on Breaking Bad, that old Suzuki really fits James McGill like a well tailored glove. On the other hand though — and here's where I take issue — it absolutely does not fit the show's setting.
Remember how I mentioned the series is set in 2002? Well judging by the grille and a few other details, McGill's Suzuki was built between 1995 and 1998. In fact, other outlets are stating the Esteem in Better Call Saul is a 1998 model. That would make the car only four-years old at the start of the series.
Maybe I'm just being pedantic — and maybe not, considering Jalopnik also briefly mentioned this yesterday — but I have to seriously wonder how a four-year old used car winds up looking like its almost pushing 25 and 250,000 miles. I'm not saying it's impossible, but think about it. It doesn't add up.
It's interesting to note a similar discrepancy happened later during Breaking Bad's run. After Walter White had completely shed his tired, middle-aged skin and morphed into the mighty meth kingpin Hisenberg, he purchased himself a brand-new Chrysler 300C SRT8. From 2012. In roughly the year 2009.
Don't get me wrong. The crew behind both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul do an excellent job of selecting the right cars for the characters they create. But if this and Walter White's Chrysler 300 proves anything, it's that they aren't as unerring as folks claim.
So the Suzuki Esteem on Better Call Saul wasn't exactly the best choice in the end. What would've been a better pick then? Well, the series has already started, so there's no going back to change things. But I suppose I'll share my alternate pick anyway.
According to Esquire, series creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould specifically sought out the Suzuki Esteem for the show. The reason why they chose it is simple: the Suzuki's proud, quirky name conflicts with its indifferent, conservative image. It's irony on wheels, a joke.
While the Esteem fits old Jimmy McGill so well, it isn't just because it's a Suzuki Esteem. It's because the car's personality is a reflection of McGill's — the car is an extension of the character. The car could've been a Chevrolet Cavalier or an Eagle Summit as long as it fit McGill's oppressed yet somehow dauntless nature.
So, if Gilligan and company wanted an irony-flavored econobox that could be properly shitty in the context of the show's setting, there is only one alternative: a beat-to-hell 1986 Hyundai Excel.
Image credits: AMC, Hyundai