The Beauty of Saw
When the original Saw premiered back in 2004, I don't know if anyone expected sequels. It told the tale of a mysterious killer known as “Jigsaw”, who would abduct people for reasons not immediately apparent, and put them in elaborate traps and devices. Every trap could be beaten, but not without sacrifice. Ultimately, we'd learn the psychology, that Jigsaw did not see himself as a killer. His victims could escape, but often couldn't stomach the self-mutilation required. Each trap was a test of just how strong the person's will to survive was. Pass the test, and you emerge with a new appreciation for life. In time, it became apparent that Jigsaw's victims were people he perceived as wasting their lives.
I think that's what I love about the series, beyond the oft-touted twist endings. Certainly the first two had the best twists, which I won't divulge any more than the identity of the killer, but it's the motivation of the person behind it that's utterly fascinating, a villain who truly believes he's doing good work. Jigsaw would give anyone in Batman's rogues gallery pause. What if someone like that existed in the real world, in a world without Batman or any superheroes? There are cops and heroes throughout the series, characters you'll root for and worry about. Some survive one film only to perish in the next. Thus far, this is a world in which the bad guy wins. The good guys come close, painfully close, but they're always a step behind or a clue short. Saw V's twist ending didn't elicit the same gasp as the prior endings, and indeed played out the way I expected. But it ends with a smile that, given the specific circumstances around that smile, might give Joker nightmares.
Saw V, through the use of Lostesque flashbacks, does a great job resolving unanswered questions from its predecessors. As the pieces fall into place, like a jigsaw puzzle, I find myself nodding in renewed appreciation of the pattern, recognizing the overall plan. Things I questioned in earlier films that didn't quite make sense were finally clear. Throwaway objects or characters suddenly were important. Like Jigsaw's traps, all the elements needed were in place from the beginning; I just needed to look. And of course, there was more than one loose end left dangling for the ultimate chapter.
I often feel like some of the films would be easier to comprehend with less than a year between them. People are always reminding me of characters and scenes that call back to earlier chapters. Maybe when it's all over, I'll sit down and watch all six from beginning to end. For now, I'll just bid you all a happy and safe Halloween.