With the return of fan favorites like Robert McCall in Equalizer 3 and John Kramer in the recently released Saw X, 2023 seems to be the year that bad guys relearn the significance of the saying—mess around and find out. Another thing they have in common is that, despite the vast differences between their modus operandi, in their own ways, both of these characters test how much their opposition, or victims, value the worth of their lives, by providing them with a chance.
Anyway, after the poor reception of the last Saw franchise entry, Spiral, the makers made the right choice by letting Tobin Bell reprise the role of John Kramer, the infamous Jigsaw killer. This time, not in flashbacks, but in the proper lead, with perhaps the most screen time attributed to him in this venture compared to all previous entries. In years to come, for series fans, Saw X will be remembered not only for the fact that Tobin Bell absolutely killed as Kramer in the movie but also for how effective a simple, tautly woven storyline can be with enough emotional depth, enough to make a case for the twisted moral perception of Jigsaw. The movie acts as a direct sequel to the first Saw (2004) movie and a prequel to Saw II, not to be confused with its title being Saw X.
How Did Henry Learn About Cecilia Pederson?
The movie opens with the evil genius John Kramer going through medical checkups in a clinic. As series fans will remember, after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, the prolific civil engineer/mechanic had a wicked epiphany, which led him to become a notorious serial killer. Kramer learns he has mere months to spare, and crestfallen, he makes all the usual arrangements, like writing his last will, attending cancer support group meetings, and so on and so forth. During his visits to the hospital, he witnesses one of the attendants planning to steal the possessions of an elderly catatonic patient, and in his mind, Kramer conceptualizes how, affixing him to an extraction machine, he will pluck the attendant’s greedy eyes out, but the attendant suppresses his negative instincts, as does Kramer, and congratulates him for making the right decision.
Once, by chance, Kramer meets Henry Kessler, one of the cancer support group attendees, who visibly seems to be in pretty great shape. Given the fact that Henry stated earlier that he was diagnosed with the fourth stage of pancreatic cancer, the swift recovery surprises John, and he can’t help but ask Henry about the medical procedure he followed. Henry shares details of a non-FDA-approved experimental cancer treatment procedure spearheaded by a certain Dr. Finn Pederson, who uses a combination of drug cocktail and surgery as means of effective cancer treatment, which has produced a relatively high success rate in completely curing the patients. Already cornered and made desperate enough by the thoughts of mortality, John checks up on the legitimacy of the doctor and communicates using the details given by Henry. Dr. Pederson’s daughter, Cecilia, explains the procedure to him and invites him to their facility in Mexico City, where, in an undisclosed location, the procedure will take place as big drug companies are hounding their efforts to find an alternative cure for obvious reasons.
How Did Jigsaw Awaken Once Again?
John travels to Mexico City, where he is greeted warmly by taxi driver Diego, who, after a brief tour, takes him to the outskirts of the city, where a van full of masked and armed mercenaries intercepts them, and, after verifying John’s identity, the mercs take him to a countryside villa. John meets the kind host of the villa, a teenager named Gabriella, who states that Cecilia treated her cancer as well and wishes John the best for his procedure. Finally, Cecilia introduces herself to John and states that the reason for such an unpleasant journey to make sure that their secrecy wasn’t compromised. Cecilia assures John of his complete recovery and introduces her medical team, consisting of Veronica and Mateo.
John befriends a local kid, Carlos, as he helps him fix his bicycle. Later that day, John goes through a surgical procedure administered by Cecilia, her team, and a surgeon, Dr. Cortez, and wakes up at a different location where Cecilia provides him with reports indicating the surgery was a success and medications to continue through several more days, after which his cancer will be completely eliminated. John thanks her for providing him with a new lease on life, and after a few days, he decides to visit the villa once more to meet Gabriella and show his gratitude. However, he finds the location to be vacant upon reaching there, and initially, it seems something bad has gone down. Viewers wonder that Cecilia’s fear of med conglomerates getting to them has turned out to be true, but on the contrary, John discovers the entire shtick was a huge, elaborate scam. Cecilia took the last, only thing a dying man was holding on to—hope—and squandered it away. Needless to say, in doing so, she incurred the wrath of the wrong man and awakened the Jigsaw as a result.
Did John Finally Get His Revenge?
John was able to deduce the identity of Dr. Cortez, who was the taxi driver himself. With the help of his assistant and protégé Amanda Young, John abducts him and brings him to the fake clinic, which has now transformed into Jigsaw’s playground, fitted with intricate, inventive, and deadly traps everywhere. As for Diego, his hands get affixed with sharp tools at each end and with explosives embedded in the arms; the only way to remove the explosive is to tear off the muscle off his own hands within a set timer count. Despite the unbearable agony, Diego persists as he is able to complete the game within the time limit and afterward reveals details about every other associated individual, including Cecilia. It turns out they conned over thirty patients using this scheme, earning a huge sum of money in return, and many of the clueless patients eventually passed away.
John and Amanda capture Cecilia from her lavish penthouse, while Valentina, in reality, a prostitute, is nabbed from a club, Mateo turns out to be a drug supplier, and Gabriella to be her customer, both of whom get abducted, and thereafter the entire party is brought into Jigsaw’s arena. After being brought up to speed, they realize that what is about to happen is in sync with Kramer’s idea of instantaneous rehabilitation. He believes that to change someone, one would need to change entirely, which is possible from the out-of-body experience induced through the physical and mental torture his captives inflict upon themselves. With each game, they have to bear the pain and complete the task in time; failing to do so will result in gruesome deaths. It all boils down to how much they value their own lives in the end, and if they realize that, they will understand the gravity of their crime as well.
Valentina is asked to sever one of her legs and collect a certain amount of bone marrow before time runs out, or else machine attached to her head will trigger and result in her death, which ultimately happens when she fails to meet the requirement within the given time. As Amanda and John discuss his future and Amanda’s role as his protégé and get distracted elsewhere, Cecilia uses the opportunity to use his phone, which was lying nearby, to call her associate and lover, Parker, who posed as a patient in front of John previously. Soon enough, with a gun in his hand, Parker arrives at the facility’s doorstep, pretending to be the patient, and gets captured by Amanda. John chooses to trust Parker, and after a while, he releases him on the condition that he doesn’t use his guns, making him a third-party audience member of the show that is unfolding.
During Mateo’s game, franchise icon Billy the Puppet arrives to instruct him by supplying him with a cassette recorder. Mateo is tasked with collecting part of his brain by cutting open his skull, and as he fails to do so, an Aztec death trap shuts on his head, viciously electrocuting it inside. When it comes to Gabriella, Amanda starts having second thoughts and asks John whether she was unwittingly sucked into the mess of addiction and scams. John reminds her that free will is something everyone is accorded, and out of everyone else, Amanda should know that most. Fans know the history behind the statement, as Amanda was a former addict who was unwittingly involved in the death of John’s unborn child due to her carelessness. Amanda eventually became a victim of Jigsaw’s game and became the only survivor out of all the earlier victims.
Gabriella, while being strung up by one hand and one leg, is tasked with breaking her limbs so she can slip them out in order to avoid the heavy ion radiating/skin melting mechanism following her body movement. Gabriella manages to survive by doing so, and John instructs Amanda to take her to the hospital for immediate treatment. However, Parker shows his true colors, holds Amanda and John at gunpoint, and releases Cecilia from her captivity. Cecilia reveals that her associates never mattered to her and proves the point by killing a grievously injured Gabriella, stating that she will have fewer people to share her scam money with.
To give John a taste of his own medicine, Cecilia brings the kid, Carlos, whom she knows John to have formed a bond with. By killing an innocent using John’s own game, she wants to commit the ultimate desecration of the Jigsaw killer’s craft. She assigns the duo in the last game of the event, which John had assigned for her, a see-saw-type board, with participants at each end who will be water-boarded if they pull the control lever to their side. The catch is that instead of water, the muzzle will pour blood, and to save a person, the other one has to bloodboard themselves to death. As Carlos and John are attached to the machine, they alternatively bear the asphyxiating experience by drowning themselves in blood, and Cecilia and Parker go to the control room to take the money.
However, in another twist, it is revealed that John anticipated Parker’s arrival, as Diego revealed his involvement as well. The bag of money was laced with a trigger mechanism, which traps Cecilia and Parker inside the control room and stops the machine where John and Carlos were trapped as well. The control room gets filled with poisonous mustard gas, with a single ventilation hole open inside that will allow only one person to take a breath at a time.
During Saw X‘s ending, Cecilia murders Parker to save her own life, but she has no way of turning back inside the room, and as a result, she remains stuck, awaiting her inevitable death. John gives the recovered money to Carlos, and along with Amanda, the trio leaves the facility. Although the movie doesn’t address it, Carlos is likely scarred for life, but at least his inclusion showed there is some good in John Kramer after all. Another interesting factor was that Finn Pederson was actually someone who had inventive methods of cancer treatment; Cecilia just used his fame to dupe and misdirect innocent patients.
What Happened In The Mid-Credit Scene?
John hasn’t forgotten about the person who actually gave him a glimmer of hope, his fellow cancer support group member, Henry. As the mid-credits scene reveals, to truly show his gratitude, John affixes him to a trap and is now assisted by another franchise legend’s apprentice, Detective Mark Hoffman.
The movie being a direct sequel to the first Saw movie, it already works as a set-up for Saw II, which means a direct follow-up of this movie is unlikely. That being said, the makers have stated that a number of installments can still fit in the Saw chronology, and alternate spin-offs like Spiral can be included in its canon as well. Given the fact that this movie is likely to become a fan favorite, we can hope for another gnarly entry pretty soon!