Analyzing the Unexpectedly Sentimental Conclusion of Saw X

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In the world of Saw, every installment is characterized by three recurring elements: gruesome traps, copious flashbacks, and jaw-dropping twist endings. When the haunting strains of Charlie Clouser’s “Hello Zepp” theme start to play, viewers brace themselves for a mind-bending revelation. The franchise’s tenth installment, Saw X, is no exception to this rule. While the ending may be somewhat predictable, what sets it apart is the audacious twist it adds to the legacy of Jigsaw and the unexpected touch of sentimentality that it brings to the story’s close.

Saw X takes a surprising turn by genuinely caring about Jigsaw/John Kramer (played by Tobin Bell), a sadistic serial killer known for his twisted moral code and impressive engineering skills. The film goes to great lengths to humanize him. Given that Saw X is an in-between-quel, taking place before his demise in Saw III, audiences are well aware that he won’t succumb to either his terminal cancer or external threats to his twisted games. However, the film’s third act shifts the focus to the latter, as it appears that Jigsaw may have met his match. Yet, given his track record of playing complex mind games even beyond the grave, the question isn’t “if” he will prevail but “how” and “when.” In the macabre world of Jigsaw, the house always wins.

Jigsaw’s quest for vengeance is triggered when he falls victim to an elaborate scam involving a fake miracle treatment in Mexico. Alongside his apprentice and former victim, Amanda (Shawnee Smith), he kidnaps Cecilia Pederson (Synnøve Macody Lund), the mastermind behind the fraudulent operation, along with three desperate individuals, Gabriela (Renata Vaca), Valentina (Paulette Hernandez), and Mateo (Octavio Hinojosa), who were part of her scheme. Jigsaw subjects them to gruesome and surgical “tests.” While Valentina and Mateo willingly mutilate themselves in an attempt to survive, the clock runs out for them, resulting in their decapitation and facial disfigurement, respectively.

All of this unfolds in the same abandoned warehouse that served as Cecilia’s base of operations for her deceitful schemes. Meanwhile, Parker Sears (Steven Brand), another victim of Cecilia’s scams, arrives seeking his own brand of revenge, armed with a gun. However, after some initial confrontations, he becomes an unexpected ally of Jigsaw and Amanda. Together, they orchestrate a series of painful trials in an arena above the warehouse. This raises the intriguing question of what might happen if an ostensibly innocent individual stumbles upon one of Jigsaw’s games, challenging his skewed moral code.

Jigsaw devises an impromptu test for Parker, offering him the opportunity to claim the money he is owed (originally earmarked as cash payments for Cecilia’s fellow conmen). The one rule is simple: no firearms.

Gabriela successfully completes her test, using a hammer to break her wrist and ankle to avoid a deadly, radiation-emitting device. However, Parker reaches his breaking point and defies Jigsaw’s sole rule. He retrieves his gun from a nearby cupboard and takes John and Amanda hostage, leading them down into the arena within the abandoned factory. In a startling revelation, it emerges that Parker and Cecilia are lovers and had conspired in the scam all along. Moreover, Cecilia’s true malevolence is unveiled as she chooses to kill Gabriela instead of arranging for medical assistance. In Cecilia’s eyes, Gabriela is nothing more than a loose end to be disposed of before moving on to another city and fresh targets.

Cecilia’s actions push the boundaries of Jigsaw’s bizarre moral code, introducing a new element of chaos when an innocent child, Carlos (Jorge Briseño), who had shared a heartwarming moment with John earlier in the film, is seized by Cecilia. Her intent is to force John to watch as the young boy perishes, pushing him to suffer in ways he had not planned.

Breaking Down the Gruesome Ending of Saw X

With Amanda restrained nearby, John and Carlos find themselves lying on opposite ends of a platform that gradually elevates like a sacrificial altar. Overhead, massive spigots begin pouring gallons of blood onto their faces. John can save Carlos only by pulling a lever that tilts the platform in Carlos’s favor, raising his head above the torrent of blood but flooding John’s airway. This disturbing ordeal harks back to the series’ early days, with its Bush-era torture themes, resembling a grotesque form of waterboarding that Cecilia dubs “bloodboarding.” Unbeknownst to anyone, young Carlos (against John’s instructions) activates a lever on his end, reversing the tilt and placing John in mortal jeopardy. This gruesome back-and-forth, akin to a nightmarish seesaw, forces both victims to endure excruciating pain for the sake of the other’s survival, ultimately casting John as an unlikely hero.

As the bloodboarding spectacle unfolds, Cecilia and Parker ascend to the booth above, intending to secure their ill-gotten gains and flee. However, the door locks behind them, triggering a mechanism that seals the spigots above John and Carlos. To their dismay, the booth contains no money, but rather, another of Jigsaw’s antiquated audio cassette players descends from the ceiling. This revelation exposes that they have unwittingly become participants in Jigsaw’s final test. John had known about Parker’s involvement from the start, thanks to a friend on the other end of a phone call (stay through the credits for the full story).

Given Jigsaw’s uncanny ability to predict a person’s every decision, this twist hardly comes as a surprise. After all, the resolutions of Saw III and IV hinge on multiple individuals shooting each other at precise moments according to a predetermined sequence. Through flashback sequences revealing conversations from mere minutes before, Saw X unravels the intricate steps of Jigsaw’s latest game. As corrosive gas fills the booth, compelling Cecilia and Parker to vie for a single, doggy door-sized slot capable of accommodating only one person, it becomes clear that John had orchestrated the final test all along. Both Cecilia and Parker had been repeatedly given opportunities to adhere to his rules—to show mercy, help others, and refrain from using firearms—but they consistently failed the tests. In the end, Jigsaw’s ultimate game forces one of them to kill the other to secure their survival.

Cecilia ultimately gains the upper hand, leaving her scarred but alive. Producers of the film have hinted that this open ending may pave the way for a future sequel. However, the real shocker lies in the unapologetically melodramatic closing scenes of the movie. Despite not intending for Carlos to be drawn into his climactic game (originally planning for only himself and Amanda to be involved), John is genuinely impressed by Carlos’s quick thinking and survival instincts. He tells Carlos, “You are a warrior.” As John, Amanda, and Carlos walk arm in arm toward a radiant sunrise, appearing as a bond forged through shared adversity, the title, Saw X, gently fades onto the screen. But the movie isn’t quite over!

Saw X breaks new ground by featuring a mid-credits scene—a first for the franchise. While it may not have far-reaching consequences, it does serve as a nod to devoted fans. Henry Kessler (Michael Beach), the

phony cancer patient who initially lured John into contacting Cecilia, finds himself in a familiar setting—a location long-time viewers will recognize as the iconic bathroom from the first Saw film, which has recurred throughout the series. With a mechanical device affixed to his body, he is confronted not only by John but also by Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), a Jigsaw apprentice featured in several films who made only a voice appearance in Saw X. In classic Jigsaw fashion, there’s always a plan in motion.

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