The central premise of Saw typically means that the main characters can’t exactly be great people. While John Kramer himself is far from the beacon of society he parades himself as, the original Jigsaw killer only targets those who “deserve” it. While nobody deserves to die in the gruesome way John intends, it does set the stage for some compelling storytelling. Sometimes. 

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All of Saw’s main characters want nothing more than to make it to the end of their film intact, but some of them were simply too dumb to live. Though to be fair, quite a few Saw protagonists had the decks stacked against them. Under fairer circumstances, Saw might have had a few more survivors. But that doesn’t make for good horror, does it? 

8 Bobby Dagen (Saw 3D)

There are idiots and then there’s Bobby Dagen. It takes a lot of guts to fabricate a lie to everyone you know where you survive a Saw trap and end up a hero. It’s another to publish a book on it. Bobby Dagen tells the mother of all lies and is somehow surprised when he ends up the victim of the very traps he lied about surviving. 

Bobby fails conclusively, with his publicist, lawyer, best friend, and wife all dying gruesome deaths. To Bobby’s credit, he legitimately does try to save each and every single one as described in his book, but the tasks prove too superhuman to accomplish– Bobby ultimately his own undoing. 

7 Officer Daniel Rigg (Saw IV)

Rigg mainly exists in the background of Saw II and III, giving some personality to the lawforce side of the cast, but he ends up promoted to the role of protagonist by Saw IV (albeit by virtue of being one of the few named characters left alive.) While Rigg isn’t a bad guy by any means, that’s exactly why he fails. Rigg is the only main character to simply fail to understand their game. 

The only reason he isn’t lower than Bobby is because Rigg didn’t paint a literal target on his back. Rigg sentences person after person to death in his attempts to save them, failing to realize that Jigsaw is trying to teach him how his attempts to help often hurt. In the end, Rigg kills the very men he spent all moving trying to save, dying an unceremonious death in the process. 

6 Jeff Denlon (Saw III)

Jeff is an extremely frustrating character, although not a poorly written one. He is consumed by the death of his son, bloodthirsty for some semblance of justice even if he needs to get it himself. Jeff is so lost in the memory of his son that he actively neglects both his wife and their daughter. 

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Jeff actually does learn from his game, coming to forgive the circumstances that led to his son’s death. Unfortunately, Jeff never comes to recognize the daughter he’s neglecting, killing John Kramer before he can so much as find out if she’s safe. Jeff’s actions directly result in his wife’s death. Jeff thought his game was won and tossed away the lesson he learned. A sad end for a sad man. 

5 Agent Peter Strahm (Saw V)

The scope of the Jigsaw killings end up extending far enough to catch the FBI’s attention, with Agent Peter Strahm taking over as Saw V’s protagonist in lieu of Eric, Jeff, and Rigg’s deaths at the end of Saw IV. Saw V isn’t the best written of the films (arguably the worst,) but Strahm’s investigation leads him deep into Hoffman’s past. 

Strahm is able to uncover that Hoffman has taken over the Jigsaw killings in John Kramer’s place, and comes oh so close to catching him. Unfortunately, Strahm forgets one key detail: Jigsaw doesn’t lie in his tapes. The only way to survive the Glass Coffin trap is to enter the glass coffin, but Strahm refuses to take this information at face value. Hoffman is pushed into the glass coffin and Strahm is crushed to death by a wall. 

4 Detective Eric Matthews (Saw II)

It can be easy to mistake Detective Eric Matthews’ lack of a temper with a lack of intelligence, but he actually is one of the smarter characters in the series all things considered. His biggest blind spot ends up being his son, causing him to fail his game. Eric ends up trapped as a result, but he ends up surviving far longer than he should thanks to his smarts. 

Eric chooses to break his foot instead of cutting it off like a certain someone; he tries to kill Amanda & only fails due to bad luck; and he tries so desperately to get Rigg to win his game & keep everyone alive in Saw IV. Eric brought his fate on himself, but he’s not dumb. 

3 Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Saw)

The original Saw is universally considered to be the best of the films, and Cary Elwes’ performance as Dr. Lawrence Gordon is a large reason why. It helps that Dr. Gordon himself is one of the strongest written characters in the series. John Kramer’s doctor, Gordon is the series’ first victim alongside Adam. 

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Gordon and Adam actually solve the clues in their game in real time, showing off their cleverness in different ways. Dr. Gordon manages to survive his game one foot shy, but his mental state deteriorates to the point where his wife divorces him (specifically instead of his infidelity.) That said, while Dr. Gordon is rough around the edges by Saw 3D, he’s intelligently laying low as Jigsaw’s surgeon. 

2 William Easton (Saw VI)

William Easton shares most of his screentime with Hoffman due to Saw VI serving as a turning point into the narrative’s finale, but William still makes a very strong impression nonetheless. In many respect, William is the anti-Rigg. He actively succeeds in every single one of his games, learning empathy through the process and forcing himself to recognize the decisions he makes. 

To be fair, William’s game is comparatively easy, but he still needs to display a decent amount of intelligence to survive, which he does. Unfortunately, it turns out Saw VI isn’t actually William’s game and he’s killed in spite of him being the sole protagonist to come out of their game an undeniably better person. But that in itself highlights Jigsaw’s inherent hypocrisy. 

1 Logan Nelson (Jigsaw)

Jigsaw is better than Saw at its worst and generally features a better script & cinematography than the numbered entries, but the film’s plot is bland, characters aren’t particularly compelling, and the game is one of the least interesting in the franchise. Logan Nelson himself isn’t too great either, one of the most forgettable protagonists in the franchise. 

That said, forgettable does not mean dumb and it’s hard to deny how smart Logan is. After spending most of the film a piece of cardboard, the finale reveals that Logan is John Kramer’s first and true apprentice. Logan is caught in the act, and outright weaponizes Jigsaw’s philosophy to game his survival. Logan Nelson is a blatant hypocrite, but he knows it and uses it to his advantage. 

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