The Saw franchise was never one of horror’s all time greats, but it was at least respectable to some extent. For a very, very brief time at least. The original Saw met mix reviews, but has generally held up as a creative & engaging early 2000s horror film– one with a twist that still holds up to this day. Saw II wasn’t quite as solid, but a solid mystery and strong performances from both Tobin Bell & Donnie Wahlberg elevate the material. 

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Saw III onwards aren’t as strong, but they begin weaving together quite a narrative for the franchise. Lore and continuity became Saw’s focal point and while the quality dropped, the entertainment never waivered. To prove the franchise could really kill anyone, the original Jigsaw died at the end of Saw III, and what followed were successors looking to wear his mask. 

It’s very much debatable how well Saw’s premise works without Tobin Bell directly behind the scenes, but he’s never actually left the franchise. John Kramer has remained a posthumous constant and he’s sure to appear in Spiral as well. While the original Jigsaw towers above his apprentices, Saw’s many Jigsaw killers add much needed variety to the horror franchise. 

5 Logan Nelson 

While Jigsaw isn’t a bad movie (it’s better than the worst numbered films and 3D,) it has a lot going against it. In spite of some solid filming and an above average script for the franchise, the plot is something of a bore. Detective Halloran’s investigation is conducted well enough, but he’s not a strong character and Jigsaw’s game is lacking in stakes. 

The reveal that Logan Nelson is carrying out John Kramer’s legacy in the wake of Hoffman’s death is a nice surface level twist, but it doesn’t change the fact that Logan spends most of the film dryer than cardboard. He’s very flat, and doesn’t get nearly enough time to flex the more interesting side of his character. 

As a Jigsaw killer, Logan is by far the most competent of the bunch. He uses John’s personal philosophy to trick Halloran into lowering his guard, allowing Logan to orchestrate one of the cleanest getaways a Jigsaw killer has seen thus far. Unfortunately, he isn’t much of a character and barely having 10 minutes of compelling screen time does his no favors. Logan is such a non-entity, it’s really anyone’s guess if Spiral will even acknowledge him. 

4 Amanda Young 

Amanda Young is not John Kramer’s first chronological apprentice (that honor retroactively belongs to Logan Nelson,) but she is the first introduced into the story proper. After surviving her game in Saw, Amanda doesn’t find new perspective on life so much as she dedicates herself to the cult of Jigsaw. 

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Amanda seeks out John Kramer, becomes her apprentice, and takes part in Saw II’s game as a means to keep Detective Eric Matthews’ son alive while John uses said game as part of Eric’s test. Saw II shows Amanda as a fairly competent apprentice, one determined to do anything for John, but Saw III shows the nastier side of her character. 

Amanda hasn’t learned anything because John’s philosophy is ultimately vapid. By forcing people to confront death, John is simply scarring them, not actually teaching them anything about who they are or their relationship with life. It’s essentially psychological bullying. This only works for so long, and by Saw III Amanda has completely relapsed & fails to function her basic tasks as an apprentice. John notices this, but instead of coming to her as the partner he’d become, he gives Amanda a test which she fails. 

3 Dr. Lawrence Gordon 

Although Dr. Gordon serves as the first film’s protagonist, he actually doesn’t have a large role in the narrative proper. This is clearly done intentionally, both because Cary Elwes is too big a pull for Saw to consistently grab and simply because it builds some fun intrigue to have the main character of the first film’s fate lingering in the background. 

Saw 3D eventually puts it in no uncertain terms that Dr. Gordon is alive. Not just that, the ending twist reveals that Gordon has been working with John since the end of the original Saw– keeping an eye on Hoffman to ensure that he doesn’t stray. When Hoffman does end up failing John, Dr. Gordon takes action and puts an end to the series’ most prolific Jigsaw killer. 

Considering Dr. Gordon doesn’t appear in Jigsaw and the fact that Spiral seems to be changing directions altogether, it doesn’t seem likely Dr. Gordon will appear again, but that’s probably for the best. He exits the series on a note of competence unlike most characters. 

2 Detective Mark Hoffman 

John Kramer is the face of Saw, but Mark Hoffman spent far more time serving as the series’ main antagonist than John did. Beginning with Saw IV, Hoffman steps in as the sole Jigsaw (or so he thinks.) He isn’t stopped until the end of Saw 3D, and only because of Dr. Gordon’s interference. Otherwise, Hoffman manages to get away with everything. 

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Time and time again, Hoffman outsmarts those coming after him. He’s directly responsible for more deaths than any other character in the series, with his massacre of the entire police force in Saw VI an especially iconic moment for the killer. Like all Jigsaw killers, though, Hoffman is a hypocrite. 

It’s debatable whether or not Hoffman bought into John’s philosophy to begin with, but his games are very different from John’s– featuring far more unfair traps than his predecessor. That’s in line with Hoffman’s personality, though. He doesn’t care about teaching people, just punishing them. 

1 John Kramer 

There’s really no beating the OG. When it comes down to it, John Kramer is just a far more compelling character than his apprentices. Tobin Bell’s performance is nothing short of legendary– sure to go down as one of the most iconic horror performances of all time. John himself is also written as something of a hypocrite (albeit for the first few films.)

While John is still alive, there’s a clear nuance to his character and the early films do a good job highlighting how fundamentally flawed everything John believes in is. The proof is in the pudding when Jeff kills him. All the same, John’s posthumous presence actually works in the series’ favor. He’s rarely ever intrusive, and what bits we get of his past help flesh out Saw’s core themes. 

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