Warning: Much like the main page, this page contains a large number of spoilers. Many of the examples below will assume you know the spoilers revealed by the endings of Saw, Saw II, Saw III, and Saw IV; as a result, those spoilers are frequently left untagged. Even then it is advised to have finished the series first. You Have Been Warned.
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John Kramer/Jigsaw (Tobin Bell)
John Kramer was an engineer who was driven to become the Messianic Jigsaw Killer after a series of tragic events and circumstances — his unborn son was killed when his wife, Jill, had a miscarriage; this caused John to drive her away, making her divorce him. John was later diagnosed with an inoperable tumor, which led to cancer. When his insurance company turned down an experimental treatment that could have potentially saved his life (or at least prolonged it), John attempted suicide. When he survived, his new outlook on life became his motivation to become the Jigsaw Killer.Jigsaw kidnaps people that he believes aren't valuing their lives, then forces them through sadistic "tests" where there are usually only two outcomes: live (and gain a new outlook on life) or die (and gain a new outlook on the afterlife). John was eventually killed by Jeff Denlon, one of the last of his direct victims. Events ensuring his legacy would live on, however, were already in motion — Mark Hoffman, one of John's apprentices, continued Jigsaw's work after his death.Notably, John himself admits that he never came up with the name "Jigsaw" or "Jigsaw Killer"; the press dubbed him so because of his penchant for carving a jigsaw-shaped piece of flesh from his dead victims — a reminder of the "missing piece" of the "human puzzle" those victims lacked, which he believes could have saved their lives.
Affably Evil: He kidnapped people and forced them to go through their problems in the form of "tests", but the only thing that was different between John Kramer and his other apprentices was that John never lied and was truthful.
Big Bad: Of the first three movies, and becomes the Bigger Bad after his death in Saw III.
Chekhov's Gunman: In the first movie, he's the man that Dr. Gordon is going over with his interns.
Dark Messiah: His true goal is to make people he feels are wasting their lives gain new appreciation and respect for how precious life is by putting them through hell if they want to continue living.
He claims to despise murderers and denies that he is one, yet many of his games either require somebody to commit murder, or will result in someone else's death if they fail. Some games feature both. He likewise seems to target people who have slighted him, using any "flaws" he can find as an excuse to place them in his games.
He straight-up murders a policeman in the first movie due to a boobie trap. Said cop is only ever shown prioritizing saving lives over catching criminals, making his death at Jigsaw's hands directly against Jigsaw's stated goals.
The Kindnapper: He claims to be kidnapping people and placing them in lethal deathtraps to help them appreciate their lives and to rehabilitate them.
My Death Is Just the Beginning: The events of the last three films of the series were carried out after he had died, with John's wishes and intentions guiding things along. This phrase is even invoked in the fourth film.
Relative Button: Sure, they may be divorced, but don't you ever harm his wife.
Serial Killer: He denies it and some characters agree with him due to technicalities, but that's all they are, technicalities. At best you could call him a serial torturer, which is just as bad, and most of his victims die anyway, not to mention those games of his that require someone to die.
Start of Darkness: The events that led to John taking up his "work" are detailed over several films.
Villainous Legacy: Jigsaw is killed in Saw 3, but the series is continued on by his apprentices and the plans he's left for them to follow.
Villains Never Lie: While his apprentices stray from this key tenant, the uniting idea of Jigsaw's traps is that there is always a way out, no matter how traumatic or difficult it may be, the victim always has hope to win and be free and alive. And they are usually told exactly what they have to do to win in the recorded messages he leaves for them.
Wham Shot: Provides one at the end of the first movie.
Jigsaw's first canonical apprentice, and the third Jigsaw Killer (after Amanda Young). Hoffman is a cop assigned to the Jigsaw case. He uses the knowledge he has of Jigsaw by virtue of following the case to murder his sister's killer using Jigsaw's MO. The frame job catches John's attention, and Hoffman is blackmailed into helping Jigsaw. Shortly afterward, he becomes a willing accomplice. At some point, he began to fall in love with his carnage and, like Amanda, did not completely buy into Jigsaw's philosophy. After Jigsaw and Amanda's deaths, Hoffman continued John's work until the final film. His true identity as Jigsaw's accomplice/successor was discovered in the sixth film, but was only revealed to the police force at large in the last film.
Big Bad: After John's death, he became this. However, it took a couple of films to solidify him as a legit threat.
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Qualifies as a subtle example. Outwardly presenting himself as a hard-working and caring cop, while hiding what a coldly manipulative, murderous, apathetic bastard he truly is.
Chekhov's Gunman: Much like Amanda, he appeared in a small scene in III and ended up being shown he was the first canonical apprentice and took up the Jigsaw killer reign after the deaths of Kramer and Young.
Co-Dragons: With Amanda, though she didn't like him being there.
The Determinator: In Saw 3D, he really wants to get to Jill. Getting in his way? That is a very bad idea.
Faux Affably Evil: His entire affable demeanor is pretty fooling at first, that is until you witnessed his true colors under the Jigsaw persona is when you realize that half his affable side is pretty much just an act to lower suspicions.
Glasgow Grin: He receives half of one after narrowly escaping the Reverse Bear Trap.
Jack the Ripoff: What drew attention to the original Jigsaw who took offense that he would use his name and methods for revenge.
Karmic Death: We don't see him die, but it's pretty obvious at the end of 3D that he's been left to a slow death by starvation by Gordon. All things considered, he deserves it. Word of God confirmed his death.
Kick the Dog: Did this multiple times, including framing Strahm for being a apprentice, replacing a letter that had John to Amanda with one of his own that told her that he would tell John of her secret, kills both a FBI lab personal, Erickson, and Perez to maintain his cover, and finally outright killing entire police station just to kill Jill Tuck.
Knight Templar Big Brother: When his sister is killed by her boyfriend and said boyfriend is let off on a technicality, he avenges his sister's death by killing the boyfriend in such a way that it would appear to be another Jigsaw killing.
Jigsaw's second canonical apprentice, a junkie who had been the first to survive his tests. She, like Hoffman, perverted Jigsaw's message by creating traps that were inescapable; she believed that Jigsaw's methods were too lenient. She also had an inadvertent hand in causing the miscarriage of Jigsaw's child.Killed by Jeff Denlon at the end of III.
Abusive Parents: Though deleted, in a line of the Saw III script, Amanda states when she was a child her father kept her locked in the basement, in the dark, for hours.
Brainy Brunette: She designed some of the traps and devices herself, in particular the shock collar that Lynn was forced to wear.
Broken Bird: She's been the victim of Abusive Parents, framed for a crime she didn't commit, very nearly died in a death trap set up by a serial killer, and blackmailed by her rival apprentice... and she becomes a cynical and violent serial killer herself.
Co-Dragons: With Hoffman, though she didn't like him being there.
Dragon with an Agenda: While she did support Jigsaw's testing, she used inescapable traps rather letting the subject live.
Even Evil Has Standards: While her traps were inescapable, she seemed to believe that she was doing people a mercy by simply letting them die rather than leaving them to suffer after escaping. She also mercy killed Adam rather than letting him starve to death.
Eviler than Thou: Creates inescapable traps, unlike Jigsaw, who intends for his victims to survive.
Hair-Trigger Temper: Amanda is apparently real quick to anger, which is not a very good situation if you ever find yourself under this woman's mercy as shown in Saw III with Lynn and especially who found out nearly too late, Matthews.
Holier Than Thou: Amanda became Jigsaw's apprentice after successfully surviving a trap, but then perverts his philosophy by making inescapable traps designed to kill the victims as she believes they won't change if they do survive while arrogantly believing herself to be the sole exception.
Stockholm Syndrome: She comes to think of John Kramer as a father figure and is intensely loyal to him. She says that he "helped [her]"... by kidnapping her when she was asleep/unconscious, duct-taping her to a chair with a Reverse Bear Trap on her head that we later find out causes a gory death if it goes off, and basically gets her to kill a guy to enable her very narrow escape from certain Death by Disfigurement.
Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes)
He is one of the main protagonists of the original Saw. The doctor who was treating John at the hospital, he wasn't particularly caring towards his patients, being more interested in treating the disease than the person. He was also taking his family for granted. Jigsaw thinks he has a way to teach him to appreciate them more...
Anti-Hero: Becomes Type V after his Face-Heel Turn; the only thing that prevents him from being an outright villain is the fact that he's just as moral as Jigsaw and at least follows all his instructions to the letter. Alternatively a Type I Anti-Villain, since he at least doesn't do anything blatantly evil in Saw 3D and his only real contribution to the film is putting Hoffman in his place.
Chekhov's Gunman: The best example in the series. While he does show up at the beginning of the film, his sudden reappearance at the end of Saw 3D is a Deus ex Machina to stop Hoffman once and for all. It isn't seconds later, where its explained that John had inducted him into his philosophy.
The Dragon: More or less takes this role in Saw 3D, to posthumous Big Bad John Kramer.
Evil All Along: In a manner of speaking. He's at least more moral than Hoffman and even brings about his doom in the final scene of the series. In fact, he's among the nicer of Jigsaw's men.
Face-Heel Turn: He was inducted into Jigsaw's philosophy after Jigsaw nursed him back to health.
Fatal Family Photo: Quite possibly the biggest defiance of this trope in film history. Gordon shows Adam a picture of his family in the first movie, and yet he is still alive in the 7th one. Considering the series' ludicrously high mortality rate, his survival would be impressive even if he didn't tempt fate with this trope.
Karma Houdini: He is the only known apprentice to not have been killed or confirmed to have been killed.
The other main protagonist of the original Saw, locked in the bathroom with Dr. Gordon. A photographer by trade, Adam was paid by David Tapp to take pictures of Gordon while Tapp was trying to pin the Jigsaw murders on Gordon.
Bad Bad Acting: His attempt to convince Jigsaw that he's poisoned. It works as well as you would expect.
Deadpan Snarker: "I went to bed in my shithole apartment, and woke up in an actual shithole."
Mercy Kill: By Amanda, after her remorse caught up to her.
The detective assigned to the Jigsaw case before Eric Matthews. After finding evidence pointing to Lawrence Gordon as the Jigsaw Killer, he began to obsess over arresting him, even after Gordon's alibi proved that he couldn't be the killer. After Jigsaw wounded him and killed his partner, Steven Sing, he was discharged from the force.
Ascended Extra: Is the main character of the (debatably canonical) game.
Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Despite having the best lead they've ever had to the Jigsaw Killer, Tapp, for some inexplicable reason, chooses to ignore protocol and charge in to arrest him without a warrant. As anyone with rudimentary knowledge of the law will tell you, any evidence taken without a warrant is inadmissible in a court of law. Nothing was achieved by this, except getting his partner killed and getting his own throat slashed. (Though, in this blunder, they had managed to save one person seemingly set to his die)
It seems like they were just following a lead and didn't necessarily expect to run into the actual killer or find his lair- either way, if they had caught him, Jigsaw would not have gotten Off on a Technicality in Real Life even if they did require a warrant, since Fruit of the Poisonous Tree does not apply in such extreme situations, especially when a life was saved. The law is not that dumb.
Determinator: This is the guy who, in the game, managed to rip off the Reverse Bear Trap without a key just by fiddling with the mechanics. Granted it's because he's studied the trap, but nobody else has done that.
Driven to Suicide: Confirmed in part 4 and (considering if its canon) shown in the true ending of the first Saw game.
Lawful Stupid: Seems unable to wrap his head around the possibility that Dr. Gordon may not be the Jigsaw Killer.
Somewhat Justified since it is implied that Jigsaw had been deliberately setting Dr Gordon up (stealing his pen and leaving it at a crime scene, which is why Tapp comes to Gordon in the first place). Still, he holds onto that theory long after it became implausible at best (though he may simply have thought Gordon was at least involved, if he wasn't the killer).
It's also Ret Conned that Hoffman was meant to be deliberately encouraging him to believe Gordon to be responsible. It's not clear if that stopped with the pen light or if he was feeding into his obsession even after he was dismissed from the force.
It still doesn't answer for the time he and his partner saw Jigsaw's face the partner died which proves that Gordan is not Jigsaw.
Rabid Cop: His recklessness results in his partner killed, his throat nearly slashed and him dismissed from the force.
Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg)
The main protagonist of Saw II, and a supporting character in Saw III and IV. A cop that is pulled into the Jigsaw case when one of his informants is killed in a Jigsaw trap.
Asshole Victim: If you choose to believe Eric truly deserved his punishment.
Determinator: In the second and third movies. He even smashes his own foot repeatedly in order to get out of a trap.
Dirty Cop: He makes a habit of planting evidence on people. However, it is shown that the people that he framed were guilty of something, just not necessarily the thing he was framing them for.
From Bad to Worse: He's in three of the movies. Every time we see him he is in worse shape than the last time we left him.
Papa Wolf: He was extremely worried when Jigsaw had his son and was willing go to huge lengths to get him back. Unfortunately all that was required of him was to be patient.
Rabid Cop: It's revealed that he has a very nasty record of violence towards most of the suspects.
Your Cheating Heart: It's only mentioned in passing, but Eric and his wife separated after he had an affair with Kerry.
The main protagonist of Saw III. His son was killed by a drunk driver. He is unable to let go, to the detriment of the rest of his family, his daughter Corbett, and his wife, Lynn. Jigsaw devises a series of traps in an attempt to help him let go and forgive those responsible for his son's death.
Decoy Protagonist: The last minute or so of Saw III sets him up as the protagonist for the next movie as well - "In order to save your daughter, you will need to play a game." Apparently the new writers brought in for IV didn't want to follow up on that plot line, since he is shot, by Strahm, seconds later.
In another version of the Saw IV script, it was shown that Jeff was to have played a game similar to Strahm's in Saw V but with saw blades, and would have considered to be inside like a giant blender of sorts. He was still killed regardless.
Papa Bear: All of his rage is over the death of his son. Anyone even remotely involved with the boy's death is responsible in his eyes.
Parental Neglect: He's so busy grieving for his lost son that he has been neglecting his daughter.
A major character in Saw III, Lynn is kidnapped by Amanda and forced to perform a brain surgery on John Kramer to keep him alive. In order to ensure her cooperation, a devise is placed on her neck that is hooked up to John's heart monitor, ensuring she only lives as long as he does.
Emotionless Girl: To some extent. Justified, as she's grieving for her and Jeff's deceased son
Stop Helping Me!: In-Universe and invoked by Jigsaw for his test. His test was to watch people suffer in their traps and seeing them get out of there, or try and help them. By the end of IV, Rigg kills several characters in misguided attempts at saving them.
Too Dumb to Live: He ignored John's recorded warning to not go down the hall and he winds up in the cube trap. He ignores Hoffman's recorded warning to go into the glass coffin and he gets squished like a grape.
Unwitting Pawn: While there are a bunch of these in the series, Strahm is the most blatant example.
William Easton (Peter Outerbridge)
The main protagonist of Saw VI. He is the head of a local health insurance office and is in charge of, among other things, allowing or denying claims. One of his customers was John Kramer; Easton personally denied coverage for an experimental treatment for John's brain tumor. That was probably not a good idea.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: By the end of the movie, he did learn a thing or two about helping people. If he had lived, he may have become a better person.
The main protagonist of Saw 3D. Dagen realized that Jigsaw victims could make a lot of money by telling their story — if they weren't so traumatized by the experience. To this end, Dagen decides to lie about being a victim, publish a book about his "experience", and go on the talk show circuit to rake in the cash and fame. Jigsaw takes issue with this...
Determinator: Dagen is an asshole for lying, but he was fully willing to do what it took to keep his friends and wife alive, even if that meant ripping out his own back teeth and re-creating the trap that had gotten him there in the first place.
Hoist by His Own Petard: His final test involves recreating the trap he lied about surviving in the first place: hoisting himself up by chains hooked through his chest muscles to stop a trap from springing. His failure to recreate the trap as he described it cost him dearly.
A drug dealer captured by Jigsaw and forced into the "Gas House" of Saw II with a half dozen other "subjects". He is notable in the series for being the only antagonist that is, at no point, aligned with Jigsaw in any way.
Ax-Crazy: When he realizes how to get the combination to the safe.