Every now and then a movie will give us a fantastic plot device, like the human-hopping agents of The Matrix, and inadvertently expose a larger problem that never gets addressed. In this case, the audience doesn’t really need an answer—at least not for the sake of the story. But if you were the unfortunate host to an agent, you’d probably give a super-sized damn about one major question: What happens to the human person after an agent jumps into them?
When loaded into the Matrix, people are using a kind of avatar representative, while their physical selves are still be back in an ooze-filled pod. We see this latter realm (the real) when Neo first wakes up after taking a red pill. He comes to, looks out over the numerous towers of other red-hued husks, and somehow manages to not leave a floating surprise in his pod. After meeting a friendly sentinel-style harvester, Neo is unplugged from the Matrix. The assumption here would be that they don’t unplug folks willy-nilly. You’d have to be deceased or defective, passing the pod on to a fresh human. And with that, we can also guess that the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar didn’t hack the harvester itself (too difficult, or they’d do it all the time with attacking sentinels), but maybe signalled to it that the pod’s inhabitant was abnormal by waking Mr. Anderson up–thus triggering Neo’s unceremonious detachment from the system. Once flushed, nude Neo ends up in a sewer system of sorts, struggles to stay afloat and is snatched like a stuffed prize by an arcade machine claw.
The process for dealing with an malfunctioning guest seems quick: unplug and flush. Very little pod maintenance would be required, aside from filling the pod back up with gelatin. It also reveals that the machines aren’t interested in the care and recovery of their flock. If there’s a defect or a death, dump the body and let the sewer sort it out–don’t waste time figuring out if you made the right call. In this case, the sentinel sure didn’t try using mouth-to-mouth on Neo.
I’m going over all of this to try and build to a possible case. If an agent jumped into you, there would only be only two real results. A: You’re preserved in limbo (sleep-mode) until the agent leaves you—if he leaves you. Or B: The moment the agent jumps into you, it breaks your connection to the Matrix and you get to take a tube-ride to meet the Ninja Turtles.
We learn through Cypher’s dinner chat with the agents that it’s allegedly possible to be reinserted into the Matrix and have new memories added. But this type of deal seems like an extreme exception to the rule, as a way to coerce Cypher to do their bidding. At the rate the agents commandeer people’s avatars, that kind of work on a larger scale might tax the network. And if that conclusion is to be believed, it throws some shade on option A. Another problem would also arise if and when the agent invariably left you parked somewhere quite different upon reinsertion, forcing the program to build you a logical story, or insert memories that would cascade out across everyone that might have interacted with you in that downtime. Simply waking up in a completely strange neighborhood, like after a night of binge drinking, might otherwise break the illusion—an illusion which is the Matrix’s greatest tool for preserving their harvests.
Based on how shipshape the machines run their organization, I think it’d be a much wiser decision, and more likely, to poop-chute a person once they’re borrowed by an agent and move on. Evidence through absence, in this case, is the fact that we never see a single agent turn back into a living, walking, talking human. The only transition we do catch is when we see an agent die, as Trinity shoots one in the head during their initial rooftop melee. The agent’s body gives off an electrical discharge as it falls, and instantly he’s turned back into a helicopter pilot—woefully deceased.
The sad part, then, is that every time a member of the resistance calls attention to themselves and an agent appears, they’re by extension murdering an innocent person. Perhaps they don’t care. The people in the pods are essentially living to die anyways, like cattle in our industrial farms. But a moral gray zone still cannot be ignored—especially when, in the very end, we see that everyone is awoken to their situation and given the choice to either stay in the Matrix or be freed. All of those agent body hijackings were then a person that might have been saved if the resistance hadn’t entered the Matrix at all.
What do you, dear reader, think? Is there enough evidence to support that people would be let back into the Matrix? Or do you agree with me, that such a thing would be, to an efficient machine mind, a waste of time?
Featured image credit: Cinevenger