Ending Explained is a recurring series in which we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old. This time, we crack into the climax of Spiral: From the Book of Saw and consider where this never-ending franchise can go from here. Yes, prepare for spoilers.
The cops never had a chance. Deemed corrupt and treacherous by the new Jigsaw, the killer churns his way through the department, ensnaring various crooked cops and subjecting them to his games. Finally, if they accept severe mutilation, they can walk or hobble away from their lives. But no cop proves to be strong enough to complete this savage process, and all succumb to Jigsaw’s heinous execution.
Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock) puts two and two together, concluding that his father (Samuel L. Jackson) is the pig-masked maniac, killing his way through his fellow officers because their corruption led to Zeke getting shot several months earlier. When we finally reach the climax of Spiral: From the Book of Saw, we discover that Banks’ math sucks. His dad is indeed a monster, just not the one he thought he was.
The new Jigsaw is Banks’ partner, Will (Max Minghella), recently thought to have been slaughtered, skinned, and hanged in the old hobby shop papa Banks once took his son shopping. Considering that his corpse was the only one where we never saw his face, or the flashback showcasing his gruesome trap mutilation, we should have seen this twist coming.
Why? What brought this sweet-faced rookie under the tutelage of John Kramer, the original Jigsaw killer? Well, not so fast. Will is a true copycat. There is a connection to Jigsaw’s methodology (and we’ll get to that in a minute), but don’t think this maniac would be too chummy with the last maniac or the acolytes he spawned in The Final Chapter.
Will witnessed his father’s assassination at the hands of Banks’ first partner. Will’s dad was gonna squeal on the police, naming another boy in blue for another murder. As a child, Will was protected by Banks, shielded from the thin blue line of killers. Banks confronted his partner, turned on him, and was responsible for putting the murderer behind bars. This action would label Banks a rat to other cops but a possible ally to Will, who spent the next decade plotting his revenge, adapting and perverting Jigsaw’s philosophy.
John Kramer, the first Jigsaw, was killed under stringent guidelines. When he was diagnosed with colon cancer, Kramer attempted to end his life by crashing his car off a cliff. However, he survived and at that moment discovered a desire to live. He saw life as the precious gift that it truly is, and when he encountered those who were far more blessed than he and were wasting that gift, he became enraged. He wanted these wretches to cherish what they had, and he was going to make them do so through his Jigsaw games.
Kramer’s traps offered a way out. If they proved strong enough and expressed their desire to live through his hell, Kramer would let them go. Through this method, he found acolytes, but not all of these acolytes shared the belief that change was possible through torment and survival. When Kramer’s young apprentice Amanda, in Saw III, constructed traps that were impossible to escape, he judged her astray. She failed to realize Kramer’s purpose and had to be put down.
Will appears to behave like Amanda, and it’s easy to imagine John Kramer, if he were still alive, disapproving of Will’s methods. The traps he builds for the cops seem inescapable, and Will obviously carries no hope that these bankrupt individuals can reform. However, as Will states to Banks, the cops themselves are not the ones in the trap. Instead, Will’s grand victim is the law enforcement system as a whole.
The system has lost its way. Will interprets John Kramer’s spiral as a metaphor for change. The system must revolve. The system must evolve. Will as Jigsaw helps turn the gear, purging the filth from the system. If he burns it down…or grinds it up, will a better one rise in its place? Can a system learn to cherish life?
Will orchestrated the Jigsaw murders as a means of luring Banks into his diabolical mindset. No victim in Spiral is without sin, and all were deemed wretched by Banks. All except Banks Sr.
Banks could not dare to see his father as just another scumbag cop. Cuz he wasn’t. He was the department head. The corruption thrived under his command. Will sees him as the worst of the worst. Will begs Banks to join him, and there is a moment where you can see the cop consider it. But he can’t watch his daddy lose all his blood. In the end, Banks fires the bullet that releases his father from his constraints, and Will flees for his elevator getaway.
Will might be disappointed, but he’s not surprised. The release Banks triggers merely sets up the final trap. Papa Banks is raised by his constraints, turned into Will’s puppet, and as the SWAT team bursts onto the scene, the strings position Mr. Banks to appear as if he will shoot upon the squad. The cops react as cops do and fire a few hundred rounds into Banks’ father. Jigsaw justice served.
The new Jigsaw remains at large. But so do the original Jigsaw’s acolytes. A Spiral sequel seems easy enough to imagine. You can’t put this franchise in the ground. If we’re moving forward, let’s see the old philosophy smash up against the new philosophy. Does change occur on the personal level or the institutional level?
We can bring Banks back for Spiral round two, but he may not make it out of the opening scene. That’s how these things go. What’s essential for a sequel is Max Minghella and Cary Elwes‘ Dr. Lawrence Gordon, aka Jigsaw’s prized student. And it just doesn’t feel like a Saw film without Tobin Bell‘s presence somehow. He died somewhere around the fourth film, but that didn’t stop him from sneaking his mug into the rest of the movies.
We need Tobin Bell back for Spiral II. It doesn’t matter if that’s via videotape, flashback, or twin brother. Sure, he’s 78 years old, but that makes his persistence all the more menacing. Will’s too young to be scary. He’s a whippersnapper. He needs an adult to crack him into shape and test his ethos. Spiral II should be where the Saw franchise becomes a generational war.