Dissecting the Macabre: Saw (2004)

Alright, so this week’s discussion question is in relation to Saw (James Wan, 2004). You can watch my Dissecting the Macabre video here or at the end of the post if you so wish.

Today we will be discussing whether Adam (Leigh Whannell) and Dr. Gordon (Cary Elwes) were meant to survive Jigsaw’s test. As we know from the Saw franchise, sometimes the traps are a test for someone else and the people in the trap are simply pawns. I found this discussion on movies.stackexchange.com, and just modified it to include Dr. Gordon’s character.

A brief rundown of the trap: Dr. Gordon is locked in an industrial bathroom with Adam. The tape the two men listen to tells Gordon he has six hours to kill Adam or Gordon loses. Throughout the film, we find out that Gordon is having an affair with one of his colleagues at work and Adam was hired to follow Gordon and take photographic evidence of this. We also find out that Zep (Michael Emerson), the apparent gamemaster – who is also being manipulated by Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) – has taken Gordon’s family hostage as leverage.

So, who is meant to survive?

Dr. Gordon is given a few chances to kill Adam, but either fails or tries to save both himself and Adam. Gordon could have convinced Adam to saw through his own foot, leading him to bleed to death; he could have actually given Adam the poisoned cigarette, instead of having Adam fake his death. Finally, Gordon could have tried for the gun earlier on and shot Adam before time was up.


However, Gordon fails his task. Thanks to Adam attacking and killing Zep when he enters the room, Gordon is still able to escape the room. Despite his promise to come back with help for Adam, Jigsaw locks Adam in the room turned tomb when Gordon leaves.

Now that hardly seems fair.

Adam loses his first chance at escape at the start of the film when he wakes up in the bathtub full of water. Jigsaw leaves the key to Adam’s shackle in the tub with him, but Adam accidentally pulls the plug and drains the water (along with his key to freedom) before he even comes to. On a personal note, I felt that was kind of unfair of Jigsaw and leads me to think that Adam really doesn’t have a fair chance of survival. Adam’s second chance is the hacksaw. Adam tries in vain to cut through his chains and breaks the saw. And that’s about all the chances he had unless Gordon allowed Adam to use his hacksaw to saw through Adam’s leg, too.


It's because of these things that I think Adam is simply one of those poor pawns that serve no purpose other than to be a part of someone else’s test. In other words, Adam is expendable. After Adam destroys his saw, his last chance of surviving all but disappears, and had Gordon decided to go through with his test Adam would have died anyway.

Zep failed his own text, too. We find out that Jigsaw poisoned Zep and to get the antidote, Zep must kill Gordon’s family should he fail to kill Adam. What’s unclear, at first anyway, is why is Gordon allowed to live? We learn from later sequels that Gordon becomes an accomplice to Jigsaw. So, was Gordon simply being groomed? If that is true, then Adam wasn’t meant to survive, and Zep had a 50/50 chance (dependent totally on Gordon). Perhaps if Gordon failed and Zep succeeded, Zep would have been the accomplice rather than Gordon.


Either way, Jigsaw wins. Game over.

Check out my video on Saw down below and remember to stay strange!

Starring Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Dina Meyer, Leigh Whannel, Monica Potter