Warning! Major spoilers for Spiral below.
Spiral‘s ending evokes the traditional format of the original Saw movies, including twists and turns that tackle the actions of police officers in the past and present. Spiral follows Zeke Banks (Chris Rock) and his rookie partner William (Max Minghella) as they take on a case involving a series of violent murders against cops. They soon realize that the killer is paying tribute to the late and nefarious serial killer Jigsaw, aka John Kramer.
Zeke and William have to play along with the killer’s games if they want to survive and save fellow police officers in their department from dying. And by the end of the movie, Zeke puts all the pieces together. Zeke discovers William faked his death and that he was Jigsaw’s replacement killer all along. Years earlier, Zeke was previously iced out by his colleagues after he turned in his partner for shooting a civilian in cold blood, a civilian that happened to be William’s father.
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William became a cop and got himself assigned to being Zeke’s partner so he could enact his revenge on those closest to his father’s murder. He killed each police officer whom he deemed to be a dirty cop for individual reasons. And he saved Zeke’s father, Marcus (Samuel L. Jackson), the former chief of police, for last. Just as Zeke fails to save his dad, William gets away.
William’s Motivation Explained
In the middle of Spiral, a distinct tattoo identifies William as the killer’s latest victim, but the movie’s final moments reveal that William actually faked his death and was the real killer behind each murder. The Saw sequel repeatedly calls back to the moment that altered Zeke’s career forever; for reasons unbeknownst to him, Zeke’s partner opened fire on a civilian, falsely claiming the man pulled a gun on him first. Zeke reported the offense, ultimately putting his partner in jail for murder and, really, abusing his power. Zeke comforted the man’s young son after the murder took place. Despite doing the right thing, Zeke was labeled a snitch by his fellow police officers and completely ostracized by his department. Once Spiral‘s ending revealed that William was the little boy whom Zeke comforted that day, it was clear that Zeke was the only police officer William ever respected.
Since Zeke was the only good cop in William’s eyes, William decided the rest needed to be killed. He decided to take them out in a manner that emulated the Jigsaw killer. As an ode to Kramer’s puppet, William created a figure wearing a pig’s head, representing the derogatory nickname for police officers. He targeted police officers who had committed injustices, such as lying on the stand or shooting unarmed civilians. To tie back into his theme of justice, William killed each cop in ways he believed were deserving of the crimes they committed; for example, he ripped the tongue out of the cop who repeatedly committed perjury. Zeke was a good and honest cop, so William spared him. William revealed to Zeke in his final, villainous monologue that he wanted them to work together to take down dirty cops, and he put Zeke through the wringer in Spiral to see if he was worthy.
What was Article 8?
Throughout Spiral, the police officers repeatedly mention Article 8. The movie never actually offers an in-depth explanation for what Article 8 entailed, but it’s revealed that it was some sort of directive enacted by Marcus when he was the chief of police. Article 8 helped tremendously with cleaning up the streets of criminals, but in return, police officers had what they interpreted as unlimited power. Many took advantage of that.
Based on context clues from Zeke’s meeting with his old partner, Article 8 indirectly led to the death of William’s father. Since Marcus enacted Article 8, William saw him as the mastermind behind the whole corrupt system, even if he wasn’t directly involved in his father’s murder. So he saved Marcus’ death for his finale. After being directly impacted by crooked cops, William doesn’t see the system as ever being salvageable, but to him, righting the wrongs of Article 8 is a good start.
The Significance of the Spiral Symbol
When William is still acting anonymously as the killer, he leaves spiral symbols at the scenes of his murders as a calling card of sorts. During his reveal as the killer, he explains the significance of that symbolism to Chris Rock’s Zeke; William sees himself as a hero working to fix a broken system, but it’s not a straight line to get to his end result. As he tells Zeke, a spiral is a symbol of change, evolution, and progress. Just because William eliminates some crooked cops, the problem won’t go away. The prestige of enforcement can easily corrupt people, meaning new dirty cops are always emerging. The problem goes round and round, just like a spiral. But within that chain of events, William sees moments for cleansing, evoking the symbolism of evolution and progress associated with a spiral. He spray-painted this image all over the city to plant the idea in Zeke’s head, as William wanted Zeke to be a part of his solution. In his proposed partnership with Zeke, William’s solution would need to continue to change and evolve like a spiral.
How Spiral Can Continue the Saw Franchise
Saw 10 was reportedly in production even before the release of Spiral, which is the ninth installment in the franchise. The ultimate fate of the next movie might lie in how Spiral ends up performing at the box office. But assuming that Saw 10 can move forward, Spiral clearly set up the story for a sequel that can completely revitalize the franchise. William cleverly established a positive presence within the police department and subsequently faked his death. Because of that, no one would ever expect him to be the killer. Since he managed to slip away after placing a 911 call to his own location, he is free to continue going on killing sprees in future Saw movies.
Most importantly, though, William’s role in Spiral‘s ending shows that John Kramer inspired a new generation of killers. The murders that Jigsaw committed over the span of his career were highly publicized, which gave killers like William plenty of ideas. The odds are that William wasn’t the only person inspired by Jigsaw’s ideology. Spiral offers the idea that anyone can be a killer, meaning that William may not be killer within the Saw universe.
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