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Shawnee Smith as Amanda Young from Saw
Photo via Lionsgate

The complete history of Amanda Young from ‘Saw’

What's the story behind Jigsaw's short-lived, hot-headed apprentice?

This article contains spoilers for Saw X.

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Alongside the notorious Jigsaw killer John Kramer, the Saw franchise has also featured many wicked and deeply unnerving apprentices, but none are quite as popular or polarizing as Amanda Young.

Young has an extensive history with Jigsaw, one fans have been passionate about from the first installment to the recently released Saw X. We first met Young when she was a subject of one of Jigsaw’s many games — and after surviving, she becomes an integral piece of the puzzle — an ever-present force of nature. Naturally, a large amount of credit is due to Shawnee Smith‘s phenomenal acting and commanding on-screen presence as Kramer’s first and only female accomplice. Young, who suffers from Stockholm syndrome, becomes Kramer’s apprentice officially sometime during Saw III, before the events of Saw, including Dr. Lawrence Gordon and Adam Stanheight’s test.

As confusing as the timeline can be, Young joined Kramer long before rubbing elbows with Adam Stanheight, whom she helped kidnap and prepare for the Adam vs. Gordon test. While Smith’s Young only appears in the flesh in the first three Saw movies, her involvement in the Jigsaw murder spree is referenced via flashbacks in Saw IV and beyond. She isn’t entirely as fleshed-out as John Kramer character-wise, but Young’s motives make her endlessly intriguing, as does her all-encompassing compassion for Kramer.

There’s also something to the veil that gives a bit of a buffer to the space that exists between fans and Young; we’ve known the ins and outs of Kramer’s mind and his every motivation, but be it the Stockholm syndrome or the ever-so-slight feeling of sympathy for a victim or two, she’s more complex than we were ready for upon understanding her continuing connection to Kramer.

Amanda was a drug addict who became Jigsaw’s victim

Shawnee Smith as Amanda Young in Saw
Image via Lionsgate

In 2004, Saw introduced Young as a self-destructive drug addict whom Kramer targeted to undergo a rigorous test to improve her life. Sometime before that, Eric Matthews, a corrupt detective we meet in Saw II, forged evidence to accuse and link Young to a drug crime investigation falsely. Ultimately, Matthews’ wrongful forgery led to Young’s conviction on the grounds of drug possession. Subsequently, she became addicted to heroin while in jail.

Self-destructive or not, the path that led her to her state of existence when Kramer found her wasn’t one she paved all on her own, and perhaps that is part of what made her both a fantastic accomplice to Kramer and someone who can still feel sympathy or empathy for others.

In a flashback showcasing John Kramer, his ex-wife Jill Tuck, and Jigsaw’s first test subject, Cecil Adams, we see Young suffering from extreme heroin withdrawal. She convinces Cecil, a reckless degenerate, to rob the clinic and steal its methadone supplies. During the commotion, Jill Tuck endures a miscarriage after Cecil accidentally hits her stomach with some force. Young watches the incident unfold, resulting in her panicking and fleeing the clinic. Due to her degrading life as an addict and her role as a passive onlooker to the assault on John’s ex-wife, Young is targeted by John Kramer, whom we learn to be Jigsaw. John abducts her, straps her to a chair in an abandoned warehouse, and attaches one of Saw‘s most iconic contraptions — what audiences would come to know as the “reverse bear trap” to Young’s head and jaw.

Yes, Young is the subject fans most often think of when recalling the Saw franchise.

Equipped with a 60-second timer, the reverse bear trap will rip open Young’s face if she fails to complete a simple task, which is explained to her via a television set by Billy the Puppet. In order to walk away, Young needs to extract a key from the stomach of her fellow addict, Donnie, who lies a few feet away — heavily sedated but very much alive. After some hesitation, Young carves Donnie’s stomach open and frees herself. Immediately afterward, Billy — the ventriloquist puppet — arrives on a red tricycle, congratulating Young for completing her test and reminding her that she knows how to appreciate her life. Young — at the time — became the only known survivor of Jigsaw.

Amanda Young joins Jigsaw and helps orchestrate the events of Saw II

Following the events of Saw, Young willingly joins John Kramer as she begins viewing him as a father figure. From then — she thrives as Kramer’s accomplice, having something within her, allowing Kramer’s twisted tests and games to make sense within the deepest parts of her mind. When Kramer targets Eric Matthews — whom we learn has wronged more people than just Young — he abducts everyone that the officer wrongly incriminated and gathers them all in an abandoned house, filling it with nerve gas that gradually poisons them. Intended to mislead the audience with a red herring, Young is selected among the participants, serving to observe the progress of the other test subjects.

Later, in Saw II, with several lives taken, the group finds themselves in an ominous room dominated by a large hole filled with thousands of used syringes. Xavier, a fellow test subject, discovers that Jigsaw intended for him to sift through the syringes to look for an antidote to the nerve gas. In a blind rage, Xavier grabs Young and throws her into the pit, demanding she find the remedy instead. After some understandable hesitation, Young rifles through the syringes under Xavier’s command.

She survives and watches as the subjects turn feral with the need to survive, particularly Xavier, who begins murdering the others to save himself. Eventually, Young takes Daniel, the son of Eric Matthews, to Kramer’s hideout and returns to the abandoned house to confront Eric, who is none the wiser and thinks that Daniel is in immediate danger. In the same grungy bathroom where Adam Stanheight and Dr. Lawrence Gordon conducted their test, Young disguises herself and hides in the bathtub. When Eric approaches her, she lunges out in a black cloak and a pig mask to attack him with an anesthetic. Young shackles Eric to a pipe in the bathroom a lá Lawrence Gordon and leaves him to die — talk about ruthless.

Amanda Young is in over her head and meets her demise in Saw III

In Saw III, we learn definitively that Young has been working with John since Saw (2004). After she survives her traumatic test, Kramer takes Young under his wing and offers her an opportunity to reinvent herself as Jigsaw’s accomplice. As we said above, Young began seeing Kramer more and more as a father figure, and she takes on his persona, views, and unnerving sense of righteousness as she joins him in “punishing” those he deems ungrateful.

What happens next, however, isn’t something Kramer saw coming. We learn in Saw III that Young has been ignoring Kramer’s work ethic by making inescapable traps, thus defeating the point of his teachings. These rigged traps will kill the subject regardless of whether or not they complete the test, thereby rendering Jigsaw’s modus operandi redundant.

Kramer, whose terminal cancer is accelerating at an incurable speed, decides to conduct one final test to determine if Young can continue his work. Fueled by jealousy from Kramer shunning her affections, Young acts abusively toward Dr. Lynn Denlon, the abducted surgeon operating on Kramer’s brain tumor.

While Lynn’s husband, Jeff, completes various trials, a delirious Kramer (after taking a saw to the brain) professes love for his ex-wife; Young mistakes his intentions for an attraction to Lynn and becomes enraged. She refuses to remove the shotgun collar from Lynn, which will detonate and murder her if Kramer flatlines. After some heated discourse, Young shoots Lynn in the abdomen, which is witnessed by Jeff, who retaliates by shooting Young in the throat. As she succumbs to her injuries, Kramer remarks that she isn’t suitable to take over the Jigsaw legacy.

Saw X sees Amanda in a new light

The events of Saw X occur between Saw and Saw II, and we see a desperate Kramer as he attempts to find a cure for cancer that has been deemed incurable. Of course, things would be too easy if he’d actually gone to a clinic to care for his wellbeing; Kramer instead finds that the doctors he sought care from are all con artists, fakers who only wish to take people for their money and instead of providing them with hope, making the last chapter of their lives the most painful.

Kramer was the wrong person to invite into their game, as they would soon discover, and he managed to track down every person involved in the scam, including the driver who took him to the “clinic” and told them it was time to play a game. Of course, it wasn’t a simple sit down with a Clue gameboard or a few hours fighting over Monopoly; it was a game of life and death, and Young was right at his side. In this installment of the Saw franchise, we see a bit of the humanity that still exists in her character, but it’s not enough to stop her from standing beside Kramer.

Seeing another side of Young’s character helps audiences understand her undying devotion to Kramer, and one thing is for sure — despite her endgame, we think she’d have done it all the same if she was given the opportunity. Be it forces out of her control or the ones she willingly walked into, there was a draw to Kramer that Young couldn’t avoid, and toxicity will always burn despite any aid that attempts to take away the sting.

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Ashley Marie
Ashley Marie is a staff writer, beat leader, Disney fanatic, and Yellowstone expert. When she's not filling her friends in on all the entertainment news they can handle, she's drinking her go-to Starbucks order — a caramel macchiato, thank you — and wishing she was at Disney World or spending time at the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch. With a focus on positivity and kindness in journalism, Ashley has been writing for a decade and hopes to keep bringing you articles for decades to come.
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Chynna Wilkinson
Chynna has been a noteworthy presence within creative media for over seven years. As a self-proclaimed geek driven by a passion for horror, comic books, video games, and modern cinema, she takes pride in doing what she loves. In addition to her personal writing projects, Chynna is also an award-winning screenwriter, published poet, and accomplished academic writer, producing everything from short stories and screenplays to articles, features, and poetry. She enjoys watching anime, horror movies, and animated shows and her life revolves around cinema, video games, and tasteful literature.