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Well, between that, IA breathing down my neck, my son's budding criminal career, and my wife's fucking divorce lawyers, I'd say my hands are pretty full, wouldn't you?
— Eric talks about his situation[src]

Detective Eric Matthews is a fictional character from the Saw franchise as well as the main protagonist of Saw II and a supporting protagonist in Saw III and IV. He was portrayed by Donnie Wahlberg.

Biography

Corruption

Eric Matthews was a homicide detective working for the Metropolitan Police Department. Due to his aggressive and occasionally violent behavior towards suspect he came into conflict with the Internal Affairs Division several times. Despite this he was still respected by his colleagues who considered him a fearless officer. During his career he worked together with Officer Daniel Rigg and Detective Allison Kerry. However unbeknown to them, Eric was actually corrupt and framed numerous people for crimes they didn't commit by faking the evidence. These actions often resulted in the conviction of these people, including Amanda Young, Jonas Singer, Gus Colyard, Addison Corday, Xavier Chavez, Laura Hunter and Obi Tate. (Saw II)

Family Problems

Eric was also married at one point and had a teenage son, Daniel Matthews. However he began to have an affair with his partner, Allison Kerry. When Eric's wife learned of this affair, she filed for divorce and took Daniel with her. His betrayal didn't only destroy his marriage but it also caused Daniel to withdraw from his father and severely strained their relationship. Out of anger and frustration, Eric ended his affair with Kerry as well as their professional partnership. On several occasions, Daniel commited petty thefts, probably to provoke his father. However he was never sent to a detention center for his crimes.

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Eric argues with his son

One day he was visited by his son as Eric wanted to regain Daniel's confidence. However shortly after his arrival he was informed that Daniel had been caught stealing again by a security officer. When he came to pick him up, the two of them engaged in an argument. Daniel, who was still angry due to the betrayal of his father, told him that he might be a good cop but not a good father. When he told him that he wanted to go back to his mother earlier, Eric angrily yelled at him to go away, which Daniel subsequently did. (Saw II)

The Jigsaw Case

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Eric and Kerry at the crime scene

Back at home, Eric had regrets about the things he said to his son. When he didn't hear anything from him until the next day, he tried to call him. As Daniel wasn't available, Eric left a message on his mailbox, asking him to call back. Moments later he was actually called back. However, it wasn't his son, but his sergeant, who told him that one of his informant, Michael Marks, had been found dead. Shortly afterwards Eric arrived at the crime scene where he met Kerry who had already been waiting for him and instructed him to the situation. Even though he wasn't happy to see Kerry due to their affair, he agreed to take a look at the corpse and was shocked to see that Michael had been killed by a nail-spiked metal mask closed on his head. Despite this, Eric was still able to identify Michael due to a tattoo on his leg and confirmed that he was in fact his informant. Furthermore he discovered that a jigsaw piece had been cut from Michael's skin, leading him to the conclusion that his informant had become a victim of the serial killer known as Jigsaw. When he asked Kerry when she wanted to tell him about it, to which she responded that she thought Eric wanted to find it himself. However as Eric didn't want to have anything to do with the case nor with Kerry, he angrily went away but stopped when Kerry drew his attention to a message written on the ceiling of the room which said "Look closer, Detective Matthews."

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Kerry and Eric

Back at the police station, Eric and Kerry engaged in an argument. While Kerry was examining a video tape found at Michael's crime scene, Eric interrupted her and compared her to Jigsaw, claiming they have much in common as they both like to play with other people. When Kerry apologized for her behaviour at the crime scene and tried to convince Eric to help her, he reminded her that this was her case and they were no partners anymore, causing her to leave angrily, asking when he stopped to be a cop. (Saw II)

Test

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Eric attempts to attack Jigsaw

However, when Eric deduced the true meaning behind Jigsaw's message, he was able to identify the killer's hideout at the Wilson Steel Plant. The next day he, accompanied by Kerry and a SWAT team led by Sergeant Daniel Rigg, went to the building and sent Rigg in with three of his men, including SWAT officer Pete Baker. Unfortunately the team accidently activated a booby trap, resulting in the death of two officers and Officer Baker's legs being broken. Called in for reinforcement by Rigg, Eric entered the building with Kerry and the remaining SWAT team and moments later finally found the Jigsaw Killer, John Kramer. Sergeant Rigg ordered his men to arrest him but they refused to do so when John told Eric it'd the best if John stayed where he was until Eric took care of his problem and told him to watch at the surveillance monitors in the next room. Kerry, Rigg and Eric entered the room. Upon looking at the monitors they saw what appeared to be another one of Jigsaw's games and recognized one of the eight victims as Erics son, Daniel. When he saw the recording of the game, Eric immediately attempted to attack John and angrily yelled at him but was held back by Sergeant Rigg. John then explained him the rules of his test. Eric's colleagues had to leave the room while Eric merely had to sit down and talk to John for a period of two hours until a timer went off. If he could do that he'd eventually see his son again. Otherwise his son and the other prisoners would be killed by a deadly nerve agent.

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Eric accepts to talk to John

Eric unsuccessfully tried to call his son as he was hoping that Jigsaw was only bluffing. Kerry tried to calm Eric down. However this attempt remained unsuccessful as Eric got more and more nervous, especially when the first victim, Gus Colyard, was killed by a booby trap only a few minutes after the game began. On Rigg's advice Kerry called for a tech team to trace back the video broadcast. After a talk with John Kramer, Eric told his colleagues about his ultimatum: In order to save his son he had to just sit down and talk to John until the end of the game. Kerry got in an argument with Rigg who suggested to grill John about the victims' whereabouts by using violence. She told him this wouldn't work, stating that John fits a certain psychological profile. Eventually she convinced Eric to agree to John's challenge and talk to him while she kept an eye on the progress of the game. However when talking to him Eric placed a walkie-talkie beneath his chair so his colleagues were able to listen to their conversation.

When they began to talk to each other, John introduced himself to Eric by his name. However when Eric asked him if he shouldn't rather call him "Jigsaw", John claimed that this nickname came from the police and the press, not from him. Furthermore he revealed the true meaning of the jigsaw pieces which he cut from his deceased victims' skins and that gave him his nickname. They were a symbol of an important piece of the "human puzzle" that the victims, who failed their tests, were missing in John's opinion: the survival instinct. He also told Eric about his attempted suicide after he was diagnosed with cancer and how his survival of this event caused him to start his mission. During their conversation, he frequently provoked Eric by talking about his violent behavior towards a suspect approximately five years ago and the bad relationship he had with his son after he cheated on his wife with Kerry. By telling him the truth about his self-imposed mission and confronting him with his past mistakes, John wanted Eric to understand him and his work.

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Eric watches his son on the monitors

However, as the timer was ticking down and Eric's desperation grew due to the tech team being running late, Kerry advised him to destroy all of John's notes and plans he had in his hideout in order to provoke him. Eric followed her advice, but John remained unimpressed by his outburst of rage and his threats to kill him if he didn't get his son back. John just calmly watched him and casually commented that he wouldn't bring him in by destroying all the evidence. Eric then stopped his tantrum when the technical team arrived to trace the recordings of the game. When he decided to end his talk with John, the latter told him to take a look at the files of the seven people once framed by Eric for crimes they didn't commit and commented that they were about to find out that Daniel was his son. When the recordings showed to him how his frightened son was pursued by Xavier Chavez, Eric brutally beat John up and threatened him with his gun, forcing him to disclose Daniel's whereabouts. Heavily injured, John ultimately offered to take him to the house, but demanded to go there with Eric alone. Eric agreed and left the building with John in a hidden elevator. Pursued by the SWAT officers, Eric and John took one of their armored vehicles to flee. While on their way, John told Eric how to get to the Nerve Gas House, where the game was taking place. Meanwhile the tech team managed to trace the video broadcast back to another house at 237 North Hyde Crescent. At that point neither Eric nor his colleagues knew that the game was over long ago and that John merely presented them a recording of the events that he broadcasted from the second house.

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Eric enters the underground tunnels

When Eric and John finally arrived at the Nerve Gas House, John gave him the key and waited in the car. Eric then entered the building. As he searched the house, he stumbled upon the dead body of Laura Hunter. He ultimately reached the room where the game had begun and also found the corpses of Gus Colyard and Jonas Singer, which already showed obvious signs of decomposition. Furthermore he discovered a used syringe which had once contained a dose of the antidote the victims had to find in order to survive the effects of the nerve gas. Screaming for his son, Eric went through an open trapdoor at the floor of the room and entered an underground tunnel network. Upon following the tunnels, Eric eventually reached a grimy industrial bathroom where he found the remains of Xavier Chavez as well as two victims of Jigsaw's earlier tests, Adam Stanheight and Zep Hindle. When he went further into the room, he found a lifeless body covered in a cloak and lying in an empty bathtub, which he initially believed to be his son. However when he approached the person, he was taken by surprise and injected with an anesthetic. Eric tried to shoot the attacker, who wore a sinister pig mask, but due to the narcotic ultimately lost his consciousness. The attacker was actually Amanda Young, who had been innocently framed by Eric and had become an apprentice of Jigsaw after surviving one of his games on her own. While Eric was unconscious, Amanda shackled him by the ankle to the same pipe as Adam Stanheight's corpse. (Saw II)

Confinement

Afterwards she took the magazine from his gun and disappeared, leaving only the empty gun, a flashlight, the hacksaw and an audio tape in the room. Once Eric woke up he was disorientated at first but eventually found the tape lying next to him. When he started the tape he realized that it was recorded by Amanda and that she had merely pretended to be a victim of Jigsaw all the time during the game. She revealed to him that she was going to be John's successor once he died and that Eric was her first test subject. Seconds later Amanda appeared. Eric angrily shouted at her and threw the tape after her but she closed the door with the words "Game Over", leaving Eric alone in the room. (Saw II)

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Eric tries to cut off his foot

Eric started to panic and tried to grab his gun. As it was out of his reach, he used one of his shoes to pull it to him. However his desperation worsened when he realized that the gun was empty. Then he used the shoe to get his flashlight, which was the only remaining source of light in the pitch dark bathroom. Furiously, he tried to break the pipe he was chained to. This didn't work. However only a few seconds later he found a hacksaw and used it in an attempt to cut through his chains. Unfortunately this attempt remained unsuccessful as well. As his fear grew even further he searched the room with his flashlight and ultimately discovered a sawed-off, decomposed and shackled foot lying in the opposite corner. Therefore Eric eventually realized that he had to use the hacksaw to cut off his own foot in order to get free from his shackle. Eric tried to pull himself together but quickly gave up and bursted out crying as he couldn't bring himself to do it. However he discovered the lid of a toilent tank lying next to him on the floor. He grabbed it and ultimately used it to smash his foot several times while screaming in agony. When he was done, he broke his foot one last time and was finally able to pull it out of the shackle.

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Eric beats Amanda up

Despite his heavy injuries, Eric took the flashlight with him and managed to reach the door, which was still unlocked. He desperately yelled for his son while tumbling through the tunnel network outside the bathroom. Eventually he found a loose metal rod which he used as a crutch. While searching his way to the exit, he soon realized that he wasn't alone and that Amanda was still in the tunnels with him. Therefore he went into hiding behind a corner and when Amanda passed his way he hit her by the head with the metal rod. Stunned by the blow she tried to crawl away and fight off Eric. However he managed to gain the upper hand despite his smashed food. He bit the back of her knee and smashed her head against the wall several times, demanding her to tell him where his son was. When Amanda refused to answer and instead spit blood in his face Eric grabbed his knife and threatened her. However she embraced her opportunity and brutally kicked his foot. Overwhelmed by the pain he fell to the floor, giving Amanda the chance to leave. As she was weaving towards the exit Eric shouted after her, insulting her and telling her she was nothing compared to Jigsaw. This caused Amanda to stop for a moment before she finally went back to take her revenge and kill Eric. (Saw III)

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Eric in his cell

Unbeknown to Amanda, Eric survived her attempted murder. He was later found by another apprentice of Jigsaw, Detective Mark Hoffman. While he was almost unconscious, Hoffman dragged him away and took him to a cell somewhere in the tunnels. Shortly afterwards he braced his foot and gave him an orange prison overall. After his awakening, Eric was regularly supplied with food and spent the next six months in his cell. (Saw IV)

Daniel Rigg's Trial

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Eric in the Ice Block Trap

After six months of confinement, Eric was taken to the Gideon Meatpacking Plant, where he had to participate in another game focussing on Daniel Rigg due to his obsession with saving everyone around him. At the plant, Eric had to stand on a large, melting ice block placed at one end of a big seesaw-like scale and had a chain noose around his neck which was suspended from the ceiling. When he woke up, several radiant heaters placed around him turned on and began to melt the ice. Moments later, he realized that Mark Hoffman was trapped in the room as well. He was strapped to a chair next to Eric at the other end of the large scale. If Eric for some reason stepped from the ice block, the runoff water would tip towards Hoffman and presumably electrocute him. At the same time, Daniel Rigg was attacked and subdued in his apartment. When he woke up, he realized that he had to play one of Jigsaw's games. At certain points in his game, he was provided with live footage coming from the room they were trapped in.

Shortly after the beginning of the game, Art Blank entered the room and pulled a lever next to the door which activated a mechanism above Eric Matthew's head. Mark Hoffman angrily yelled at him and demanded him to let them go. However Art ignored them and instead sat down in front of the surveillance monitors in order to observe Jigsaw's games. At some point after the beginning of Rigg's series of tests, Eric told Art to fuck himself and attempted to commit suicide. Therefore he tried to hang himself with the chain noose around his neck by jumping off the ice block. However Art saved him and placed him back on the block. When he revealed to him that Hoffman would die if Eric left the block, Hoffman begged Eric to listen to him. Eric insulted the man but stayed on the block when he went back to the monitors.

However as the game progressed, Eric begged Art to shoot him as he didn't want to play the game any longer. Therefore Hoffman angrily yelled at him and told him to be quiet. Later on Eric pretended to be unconscious. When Hoffman told Art to take a look at him, Art became worried and tried to wake Eric up. Eric then attacked him and therefore fell off the ice block again. While struggling with him, Art forced him back on the block and told him that he wasn't the one that Eric should worry about. Furthermore he told them that all of them were going to be free if Rigg passed his test, revealing that he was merely another victim on his own. Following the instructions Jigsaw provided for him some time earlier, Art gave Eric a gun and a bullet and told him that he had the choice if he wanted to live or to die.

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Eric sees the ice blocks above him

At some point however Art started to become nervous when he saw the mechanism above Eric's head. This mechanism was connected to two large ice blocks attached to mechanical arms suspended from the ceiling. When he saw the chain which connected the mechanism with the door of the room, Art realized that the ice blocks would swing down and therefore crush Eric's head if the door was opened before a 90-minute timer went off. Therefore they had to prevent Rigg, who was on his way to the plant already, from entering the room before the clock expired. (Saw IV)

Death

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Eric tries to stop Rigg from entering

As the timer was ticking down, Art, Hoffman and Eric started to panic. Eric yelled at Art and demanded him to tell them who was coming. However Art ignored them and just kept his eye on the surveillance monitors. When he took off his jacket he revealed one of Jigsaw's deadly contraptions, which was attached to his back and would crush his spine if he didn't follow Jigsaw's rules. Furthermore he took out a button and told the detectives that it would free them once the time went off.

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Eric's death

Only minutes later, Rigg finally arrived at the Gideon Meatpacking Plant and reached the room where his friends were trapped. Eric yelled at him not to open the door. However Rigg ignored him and bursted into the room. Out of desperation, Eric shot him in his chest but couldn't prevent him from entering. When Rigg bursted through the door with only one second left, Eric's trap was activated. Therefore the large ice blocks swang down and crushed his skull, causing his lifeless and mutilated body to fall off the ice. Following his friend and partner's death, Rigg angrily yelled at Art whom he believed to be Jigsaw's accomplice. Art tried to tell him that he was tested by Jigsaw and grabbed in his bag, causing Rigg, who thought that Art was grabbing a weapon, to shoot him in the head. However it turned out that it was no weapon but an audio tape. Upon listening to the recording, Rigg finally realized that his test wasn't to save Eric but to let him save himself. (Saw IV)

Post-Mortem

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Eric's picture at the memorial

When the police forces arrived at the Gideon Plant, the corpses of Eric and the other victims of the game were taken to the morgue to be examined by Dr. Adam Heffner. After Jigsaw's death at the hands of Jeff Denlon, another one of his victims, Eric and his deceased partners Allison Kerry, Daniel Rigg, David Tapp and Steven Sing were given a memorial. His picture stood next to those of his colleagues. On this occasion Detective Hoffman, who had merely pretended to be a victim, and the Chief of Police each delivered a speech to honor them and their efforts. (Saw III, IV, V)

Non-Canon Appearances

Full Disclosure Report

Eric briefly appeared in the documentary broadcast Full Disclosure Report, which tried to shed some light on the Jigsaw Case. When a reporter of KCUD2 asked Eric about the accusations against him regarding brutality against suspects. Eric reacted angrily and aimed his gun at the reporter, but was held back by a SWAT officer and then left the scene in his car. The show host, Rich Skidmore, comments on the accusations against Eric and how cops like him hinder the progress in the Jigsaw Investigation.

The Scott Tibbs Documentary

Eric was also mentioned in The Scott Tibbs Documentary. When Scott Tibbs, a psychotic rock band leader, decided to film a documentary about the Jigsaw Killer, he was soon called to the Wilson Steel Plant by one of his friends. When he arrived there, the plant had been surrounded by the police. Moments later, Detective Jenkins gave a press conference outside the building, where he told the public that the police had found out about Jigsaw's true identity, John Kramer, and told them to come to the police if they had any information about him. Furthermore he revealed that Jigsaw, while eluding custody, had taken the lead detective, Eric Matthews, as his hostage. Therefore he sent an appeal to John to show mercy with Eric just like he had shown mercy with his son, Daniel Matthews, who had been one of his victim's as well but was released by him.

Personality

Eric had a temperamental and focussed personality. This regularly caused him to lose his temper when he was out of control and thing's didn't go the way he wanted. In such situations he often acted aggressive and on some occasions even turned violent, which already brought him into conflict with the Internal Affairs Department. Additionally Eric tended to always see himself as the victim and had problems to admit his own mistakes. He also didn't care about the feelings of the people around him and was loyal to no one but himself. Due to this behavior he started an affair with Kerry, his partner, which later resulted in a messy divorce from his wife and also strained the relationship between him and his son, Daniel.

Despite this Eric claimed that he had always love his son and was willing to go to great lengths to save him when he was abducted by Jigsaw. However it can be speculated that this changed after his six months of captivity, as he didn't ask for his son only once during Daniel Rigg's game and also wasn't willing to live anymore, evident by his attempted suicide and the fact he begged Art to kill him. This leads to the assumption that he was severely traumatized and mentally broken after his confinement.

Behind the Scenes

Donnie Wahlberg on Eric

Donnie Wahlberg, the actor who played Eric in Saw II, Saw III, and Saw IV, said: "I think he's a selfish person. He's the type of person who's incapable of concerning himself with other people's feelings, including his son's. In his mind, he probably has bigger issues. As we discover, he's not the most ethical person in the world. It all makes sense if you think about the first movie and what Jigsaw's mode is; what his MO is. This is a guy who doesn't really care anymore and he's kinda mailing it in. It's no mistake that he's brought into this case. It's by design and I think Jigsaw probably knew that this guy wouldn't want to get involved in the case and that's why he singled him out. When his name is on the ceiling, he's basically saying, "You are going to be my next subject." If my character was a little less selfish and a little less self-absorbed, he might have been smart enough to realize that he was being pulled into something. That's sort of like life. We are at time so worried about ourselves we miss other stuff; and if you get carried away with that like my character does, it could really get you. In most cases and in real life, we figure it out before it's too late."

When asked if he found Matthews to be sympathetic in spite of his flaws, he stated: "I didn't think about whether the audience would care about this guy or not. My character didn't care about himself. I hope that audience would get that he cares about his son, but that doesn't mean I expected the audience to have sympathy for him. If they believe that he knows he made a mistake, that's good enough. I didn't know if the audiences to say, "What an asshole!" I don't know if women in the audience care about Cary Elwes from the first Saw film. I think they still thought he was a bastard even if he didn't sleep with that woman. His mistake put him in that predicament and in real life, if you mess around on your wife, you're probably not to going to end up chained up in the bathroom somewhere with a saw, but you can still make a mess out of things. What I kept zeroing in on with my character and his son is when I talk to my son, I tell him I love him every time I hang up the phone. I say, "I love you," when I drop him off at school, only because I want to make sure that the last things I say to him is something wonderful. That's one of the things we added to the script. That was one of the best moments for my character, to see what was the last thing he said to his son. When Jigsaw asks him that, that was something I had to have in that scene. If you are a parent, you will say probably say to yourself, "That's not good." That's the thing that you have to live with."

Trivia

  • In the original script by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan for Saw IV, Eric Mathews was to be cast as the lead character passing his tests with the help of a poisoned Mark Hoffman who later revealed himself to be Jigsaws apprentice. However, actor Donnie Wahlberg didn't originally want to return to the role of Mathews, and thus the script was re-written to center on SWAT team leader Daniel Rigg. Wahlberg finally agreed to return as Detective Mathews shortly before filming began, thus leading to his smaller on-screen role in the film.
  • In a deleted scene from Saw III, Eric was shown to be killed by Amanda. After leaving him in the hall, Amanda turned back and brutally murdered him by sitting on him and slashing apart his body. She then left his corpse and got in the van with Jigsaw, telling him that Eric was locked away in the bathroom as ordered.
  • Eric shares a name with Boy Meets World character, Eric Matthews.
  • Eric Matthews was originally named Eric Mason. 
  • On the commentary for the Saw IV Director's Cut, director Darren Lynn Bousman points out that Eric Matthews, while imprisoned by Mark Hoffman in a cell for six months, can briefly be seen playing with, petting and talking to a dead rat. Darren Lynn Bousman says that Donnie Wahlberg asked for that not to be included in the movie anyway, a request that was heeded in the theatrical version, but flat-out ignored in the director's cut. 
  • Originally, Darren Lynn Bousman and Lyriq Bent planned on shooting another ending in which Officer Rigg passed his test and the timer ticked to zero. However this ending wasn't shot, much to Darren Lynn Bousman's disappointment, as he found this alternate ending to be more dramatic.
  • In Saw 3D ending when Lawrence Gordon is picking up the saw from the ground and when he throws it out, Eric's gun and his chain can be seen on the right side of Gordon's foot
  • In Saw V, when Strahm is looking for Hoffman, the blood trail leading to the bathroom is seen, the blood was from Eric Matthews who had escaped in Saw III, but at the end of Saw 3D the trail is not seen from the inside or out of the bathroom.
  • Eric's gun is a Smith & Wesson Model 5946.

Appearances and References

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