The ‘Saw’ Apprentices, Ranked by Their Queerness

Saw Cary Elwes

The Saw franchise has notoriously cultivated a queer fandom. While it might be surprising despite the horror community being a safe haven for queer people for decades, these famous editions to the torture porn subgenre house some of the queerest characters in modern horror. Subtext is as valuable as text here, especially for a fandom that sees an inkling of proof within the characters of the Saw franchise and expands it into viral tweets and thousand-word-long fanfiction.

Jigsaw—or John Kramer—somehow cultivated a group of people to work for him who have varying degrees of homoerotic tension with everyone in their wake. He plucked the people carefully to work with him and carry on his legacy, and it’s safe to say his gaydar is stronger than his moral compass. From Kramer’s own wife who steals the show after his death, to the queer ship that started it all back in 2004, it’s safe to say that the Saw franchise is one of the queerest horror franchises to exist. 

So, without further ado, here’s every Jigsaw apprentice ranked by queerness. 

6. Logan Nelson, Jigsaw (2017)

One of the most irrelevant Jigsaw apprentices comes from the film of the same name as the titular character. After initially mixing up John Kramer’s X-rays, he joins the man’s cause, helping him craft the traps that end up aiding Kramer in his cause for years. Not only does Logan Nelson helm one of the most unsatisfactory ventures into the Saw franchise, but he also doesn’t deliver anything to the film or its audience. Unlike the apprentices from the other films, there’s no air of cockiness, and definitely not an air of queerness about him.  

Logan ultimately does not add anything to the franchise, though perhaps it’s not his fault that he got shafted in one of its worst films. We can celebrate the fact that he makes it out of the film alive, while also acknowledging that he’s not as relevant as the other apprentices. Along with this, he’s the only of Kramer’s apprentices to not say the famous “Game over” after his identity is revealed…boring! His irrelevance to the fandom at large speaks for itself, so he comes at #6 as the least queer—and least interesting—of Jigsaw’s many apprentices.

5. Jill Tuck, Saw III (2006) through Saw 3D (2010)

Perhaps the original Mother of the torture porn genre, Jill Tuck is first introduced to us in a flashback sequence in Saw III as John Kramer’s ex-wife. She then becomes relevant to the plot after being interrogated about her relationship with Kramer, though she appears to be out of touch with her husband’s activities. Despite this, she gets wrapped up in the games anyway. One of Jill’s most infamous moments is when it’s revealed that she is the voice behind Detective Hoffman’s initial game, goading him into insanity before trapping him in the classic reverse bear trap.

Jill, while not queer herself, is dedicated to her husband and serves cunt nonetheless. Actress Betsy Russell plays her character with an air of cockiness not seen in the series since Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith) in Saw III, proving that while she plays dumb about her awareness of Kramer’s life as Jigsaw, she may know more than she lets on. She walks into any room, including an interrogation room, knowing that no one in that room can touch her or frighten her. She was once married to John Kramer for crying out loud! 

4. Amanda Young, Saw (2004) through Saw III (2006)

One could say Amanda is the Princess Diana of the Saw franchise: a misunderstood outcast attempting to do the best with what she’s got. We’re first introduced to her in Saw as one of Jigsaw’s first victims. As she recounts her story to Detective Daniel Tapp (Danny Glover), we realize that as of that moment, she’s the only person known to survive a Jigsaw trap. In Saw II, Amanda finds herself once again in a Jigsaw game, this time infiltrating the traps to ultimately get Daniel Matthews out safely. In the final scene of the film, she’s revealed to actually be working with John Kramer, slamming the door shut on Eric Matthew’s with a menacing declaration of “game over,” proving herself worthy of helming the Jigsaw name.

Then, in Saw III, Amanda becomes the focal point of the franchise, her tumultuous relationship with Kramer becoming more strained as his cancer worsens, and Amanda becomes more paranoid. She abducts Dr. Lynn Denlon in an attempt to save John’s life, forcing the doctor to perform a DIY brain surgery. The tension between the two women is so thick that it overpowers Amanda’s already complicated relationship with Kramer. 

Amanda prowls in Lynn’s peripheral vision like a wild cat stalking its prey, constantly haunting the frame. While her relationship with the doctor becomes more contentious, it also becomes homoerotic. The camera holds on her face as she stares at Lynn, and holds on the other woman as well when Amanda can be seen leering in the background. Actress Shawnee Smith carries her character with an aloofness that’s mesmerizing, as Amanda whispers in Lynn’s ear, making sure the woman knows that her fate ultimately lies in Amanda’s hands. While she may not be canonically queer, Amanda exudes queer energy, tumultuous relationship with a father figure and all. I have no doubt that if she were allowed to survive longer throughout the series, her storyline would have hinged not only on her relationship with Kramer but Lynn as well. 

3. William Schenk – Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021)

While quite unpopular due to its release on VOD during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Spiral: From the Book of Saw is an overall fun edition to the franchise. The most interesting aspect of the film is no doubt the relationship between Zeke Banks (Chris Rock) and rookie detective William Schenk (Max Minghella), who meet early on in the film when William is assigned as Zeke’s new partner. Amidst another Jigsaw reappearance, the traps in this film focus on punishing corrupt police officers in the city, which causes tension within the city’s precinct and wrecks havoc on Zeke’s mental state.

William is seemingly killed in the middle of the film, when a box containing his skin is delivered to Zeke accompanied by a classic Jigsaw pig mask. Despite only knowing William for a few days, Zeke is devastated. At the end of the film, it’s revealed that William is actually alive, and responsible for the murders that he and Zeke have been investigating. But, instead of aiming to punish Zeke, he attempts to get him on his side. He earnestly asks his partner to join him in his mission to punish crooked cops to not only prove his loyalty, but to bond the two of them forever. 

While William is technically a copycat rather than an apprentice, his character deserves to be on this list. There’s a yearning for not only a partnership here but something more. It’s a yearning for a physical and emotional connection for someone who is equally as wounded as you. It’s a tantalizing relationship built on a Gone Girl-esque foundation, almost as if in the last few minutes of the film William is trying to tell Zeke what Amy Dunne told Nick: “I’ve killed for you, who else can say that?” And really, there are fewer things more queer than that in this franchise. 

2. Mark Hoffman, Saw III (2006) through Saw 3D (2010)

Perhaps the most stoic and evil of the apprentices, Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) has come along with a surprising fanbase in the last few years. As the films get recontextualized as the decades pass, certain demographics—queer ones specifically—rework slivers of subtext and allow them to be viewed as text. Like the relationship between Zeke and William, Hoffman infiltrates the local police force in an attempt to get a hand on the Jigsaw investigation. There, he meets and immediately clashes with agent Peter Strahm, a by-the-book detective who becomes increasingly obsessed with the case as time goes on.

In the last year or so, Saw has gained a strong online Gen-Z audience, with Hoffman and Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) coming second to Adam and Lawrence from the first film as the most popular ship (or fictional romantic pairings of characters) in the franchise. Recently on Archive of Our Own, the ship has garnered over 160 works of fanfiction, which is quite a big number for a ship from a franchise that began in 2004. What makes this ship so popular is the fact that Hoffman and Strahm do not like each other. They operate differently within their profession, and to top it all off, Strahm begins to suspect that Hoffman may be closer to the Jigsaw case than he lets on.

There’s nothing more homoerotic than a game of cat-and-mouse. The popularity of television shows like Hannibal (2013-2015) and Killing Eve (2018-2022) and their dedicated queer audience prove this fact. A villain existing right under the nose of the protagonist is a fantastic trope, but even more intriguing when the protagonist is drawn to the person they’re searching for in a way that is almost indescribable. This creates an enormous amount of tension for the two characters over a period of three films, ending in a final brush with fate that ends with a deadly face-off.

1. Lawrence Gordon, Saw (2004) and Saw 3D (2010)

Coming in at #1 is no other than the man who started it all. Saw (2004) see’s Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) trapped in a bathroom with a young man named Adam (played by a stellar Leigh Whannell). It’s eventually revealed Gordon must kill Adam in order to not only survive, but to free his wife and daughter from Jigsaw’s clutches. The two come from completely different worlds, with Lawrence being a doctor with a failing marriage and Adam being a photographer and a loner. As the film moves on, they become increasingly dependent on each other and bond over their strive to keep each other alive.

When Lawrence saws his own foot off to escape his chains, he crawls to Adam’s side before he leaves. The two grip each other’s shirts like a lifeline, finally being able to touch after hours isolated on opposite sides of the room. Lawrence eventually escapes the trap, and Adam is eventually killed by Amanda to put him out of his misery. But, it’s revealed in Saw 3D (2010) that Lawrence, despite not appearing in any of the other sequels, not only survived the first film but is one of Jigsaw’s main disciples. It’s a plot twist that rivals even Hitchcock’s best, allowing a fan favorite to not only survive but become warped by the very experience that bonded him and Adam all those years ago. 

Adam and Lawrence have been a popular ship within the fandom for decades, with the first fanfiction about the two being published on Archive of Our Own back in 2012. Since then, the ship has garnered a whopping 578 fanfictions on the platform. Many of them take artistic liberty to keep Adam, and subsequently his relationship with Lawrence, alive. The two of them set in motion the queer fandom that the Saw films ended up cultivating. Despite Adam being dead, the relationship he had with Lawrence haunts not only the narrative but Lawrence’s short yet satisfying character arc. 



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