Agent (The Matrix)
|The Matrix character|
From left to right: Agents Brown, Smith, and Jones
|First appearance||The Matrix|
|Created by||The Wachowskis|
|Portrayed by||Robert Taylor, Paul Goddard|
Agents are a group of characters in The Matrix franchise. They are sentient computer programs carefully disguised like average-looking human males, displaying a high-level of artificial intelligence.
Agents are representatives within the Matrix fictional universe. They are guardians within the computer-generated world of the Matrix, protecting it from anyone or anything (most often Redpills) that could reveal it as a false reality or threaten it in any other way.
Agents also hunt down and terminate any rogue programs, such as The Keymaker, which no longer serve a purpose to the overall Machine objective. They physically appear human, but have a tendency to speak and act in highly precise and mechanical ways.
Agents wear black business suits lined with a gold fabric, white dress shirts, black dress shoes, black neckties with a silver bar clip, square sunglasses, and a communication earpiece. These features are copied from the attire for plainclothes agents of the United States Secret Service, as well as those of the Men in Black conspiracy or the stereotypical G-Man/FBI official. All Agents are Caucasian males (with a minor exception of African-American Agent Perry and female Agent Pace from The Matrix Online game), which also provides a dynamic compared to the majority population of Zion, containing many diverse cultures and walks of life. With the exception of Agent Pace, Agents also tend to have common Anglo-Saxon names such as Smith, Jones, Brown, etc. They have sideburns, and their hair is either slicked back or side-parted. Matrix Agents carry Desert Eagle handguns in shoulder holsters that are concealed beneath their suit jackets. In addition to proficiency in the use of firearms, all Agents are masters of the martial arts and hand-to-hand combat.
Agents are programmed to be extremely agile, allowing them to perform superhuman feats such as leaping great distances, while possessing exceptional reflexes; on one occasion Smith managed to directly counter a punch from Morpheus with a punch of his own to Morpheus's still-moving fist. They can briefly move at speeds fast enough to evade gunfire, at least in most circumstances; contact shots are effective, as are weapons with an extremely high rate of fire, such as that from a “minigun” as seen in the first Matrix film. They seem to be impervious to pain, or to have an extremely high tolerance for it; when Trinity shoots an Agent in the abdomen and shoulder during the opening scenes of The Matrix Reloaded, no visible reaction of pain is seen. They can only be "killed" by wounds that would be instantly lethal to a human; trauma to the head, heart, upper spine, and so on. They can suffer superficial wounds, as seen in Reloaded when Morpheus cuts Agent Johnson's cheek with a sword.
However, being injured or "killed" is only a minor obstacle. Agents can transfer themselves into other bodies at will, including those of Bluepills—humans directly connected to the Matrix. Apparently, Agents have no "original" bodies, but even at their creation are over-written on the virtual signal of a human plugged into the Matrix. Hence, killing their current human "shell" will only delay an Agent long enough for it to transfer into another nearby Bluepill human. Actually, destroying a specific Agent program is virtually impossible. They can only possess Bluepills, however, and thus Zion rebels are unaffected (only Smith, as a virus, had the ability to take over Redpills by copying himself over them). For this reason, areas with a high population density (crowded apartment buildings, market places, freeways, etc.) are usually avoided by the Zion rebels. To date, it is unclear whether or not an Agent can shift back out of the body of a Bluepill, at will, without harming or killing them.
Agents possess superhuman strength, performing feats such as tearing open a car's roof with one hand and delivering punches that can shatter solid concrete. Agents also seem significantly less stunned by punches and kicks than a human would be, although a sufficiently strong attack to a vital body area can stagger them, such as when Neo briefly stunned Smith by jabbing fingers into his throat.
Agents can only act within the boundaries of the Matrix, and as a result, they must obey the laws of physics set within its system. Thus, while they can perform feats of incredible strength and endurance, they cannot walk through walls, stop bullets, fly unassisted, etc. They can bend the rules, but they cannot outright break them. The only exception to these limits occurs in the first film, wherein Agent Smith appears to plant a suggestion in Neo's mind that his (Neo's) mouth has sealed itself, although this could have been a temporary rewrite of the code of Neo's residual self-image (RSI) from the source rather than a regular ability possessed by conventional Agents.
With the exception of Smith, who seems intellectually superior to his colleagues (and far more ambitious), Agents show little or no emotion.
Interaction with Zion infiltrators and other programs
Their abilities make Agents extremely dangerous and virtually impossible to eliminate. All Zion hovercraft crewmembers know this, and upon encountering one, they are cautioned to escape. According to Morpheus, in the time before Neo was freed from the Matrix, every human that had stood their ground against an Agent was killed. Morpheus and Neo both individually fought Agent Smith in the first movie, and both were defeated, only surviving because Smith needed Morpheus for questioning and Neo due to his self-realisation of himself as the One. Later, once Neo had harnessed his abilities as the One, Agents no longer posed a threat to him and he could easily disintegrate Smith, scaring Agents Brown and Jones into fleeing. It is implied in the game Enter the Matrix that one of the main reasons for Neo's ability to defeat Agents was his ability to focus enough to move quickly for far longer periods than could normal rebels. This is the main cause of the player's difficulty in fighting Agents, since when the player is outside bullet time the Agents are able to dodge and counter all hand-to-hand attacks.
Morpheus had been fortunate enough to survive encounters with two Agents (Smith and Johnson) throughout the trilogy. He was defeated soundly by Smith (who was probably limiting the lethality of his attacks, as he wanted to capture the high-ranking infiltrator alive), and only overcame Johnson due to the nature of their situation; he did not wear down his opponent, but merely threw him from the top of the speeding truck on which they were fighting, although he only managed to turn the tables on his foe after he was thrown off, due to the unexpected arrival of Niobe, who rescued him.
Niobe has defeated an Agent, but as with Morpheus, there were extenuating circumstances. The fight took place on board a cargo plane in the skies above the Megacity; Niobe lowered the rear cargo ramp and managed to knock Agent Johnson out of the plane.
Ghost has also defeated a single Agent during a raid on a nuclear power plant, again by making use of unique circumstances of the encounter. Agent Johnson challenged him in the control room of the plant, whereupon he damaged one of the high-voltage servers with small arms fire and threw his opponent into it, electrocuting him.
The Oracle's bodyguard Seraph says to Smith in The Matrix Revolutions: "I have beaten you before," but this is not expanded upon. Smith remarks that chasing Seraph is like "chasing a ghost," suggesting a lasting rivalry between the two programs.
Trinity is the only other character to have "stood up" against an Agent and survive, given that she dispatched Agent Jones by a contact shot when he was near to killing Neo, getting in close while the Agent's attention was focused on Neo. If, as Morpheus suggests, no other human had survived an Agent encounter, this would mark the first time that an Agent had been "defeated", albeit the Agent's program then "body hopped" into another Bluepill and was fighting again within minutes.
Notable film agents
Agents Jones and Brown
In the first film, Agents Jones (Robert Taylor) and Brown (Paul Goddard) are credited as Agent Smith's "sidekicks". Smith is given at least one order (or at least a forceful suggestion) by Jones ("order the strike"), and there appears to be some resentment or disagreement between the three on several occasions.
Jones and Brown undergo little character development and do not appear in the sequels, though they are occasionally seen in The Matrix Online. They are mostly silent, but brutal accomplices to Smith, who perform secondary tasks such as holding Neo in place when Smith places a tracking device (possibly a program) inside his body cavity.
Brown chases Trinity across the rooftops in the opening sequence, missing several shots. Brown is also present in the scene wherein Morpheus is interrogated, injecting a truth serum into Morpheus's neck. Finally, Brown is ordered by Smith to check Neo for life signs after Smith shoots him and confirms Neo's death. Brown shows subtle hints of cynically deriding his "superior" Smith, such as when he seems slightly annoyed at him when they are interrogating Morpheus.
Jones is less prominent than Brown in the first movie, but his most notable scene is a confrontation with Neo in a rooftop fight. He then stands above the stricken Neo, uttering the line "[o]nly human," before being shot by Trinity, who managed to get in close enough to shoot him in the head at point-blank range while he was occupied with Neo. From this, it can be deduced Jones perceives the human race much as Smith does, though with less unbridled revulsion. Likely as a precaution, Jones is briefly seen in the background holding Brown back when Neo is about to destroy Smith in the end of the film, and they are last seen fleeing from Neo. Jones seems slightly more jaded and bored with his tasks than the other Agents.
The Matrix Reloaded introduced "Upgraded" Agents, Jackson, Johnson, and Thompson. Their enhanced strength, speed and stamina enable them to engage in protracted combat with Neo. In The Matrix: Path of Neo, the upgraded Agents recover from violent physical injuries in a relatively short time. However, an unarmed Neo is still able to defeat them easily.
The upgraded Agents continue the use of very plain, common, Anglo-Saxon names. A difference is that now their names are all two syllables and end in "-son", while the original Agents had names consisting of only a short syllable. Agent Johnson appears to be the leader of the upgrades, filling the same role as Smith prior to his first "death". Johnson attempts to destroy the exiled Keymaker program, and fights Morpheus on top of a speeding truck.
When Smith was destroyed by Neo at the end of The Matrix, his programming instructed him to return to the Source (the Machine mainframe), either to be destroyed or stored. As a result of Neo's attack, something changed in Smith that allowed him to defy his programming. The change in Smith also disconnects him from the system, setting him "free" from his duties. In effect, this change makes Smith an "Exile" program without purpose. By copying his programming onto others, especially The Oracle, Smith develops similar qualities as the One, such as the ability to withstand dramatic damage and the power of flight. Because Smith feels that he is still a victim to "purpose", he thus makes it his goal to destroy both Zion and The Matrix. Beginning to behave like a virus, he makes multitudinous copies of himself by using humans and other programs in the Matrix as hosts. The copies thereafter display the memories and special abilities of any assimilated programs, such as the Oracle's ability to see the future and control over The Matrix. Smith's ability to copy himself onto others may be a corruption of his original ability to move between hosts before Neo's attack. Neo is shown to be the only person able to withstand such assimilations, Morpheus only being spared because Neo threw off the Smiths that were trying to copy over him; even the Oracle fell victim to the attack, although it apparently required greater effort on Smith's part than usual. Smith eventually assimilates the entire Matrix and is destroyed when Neo, co-operating with the Machines, allows himself to be overwritten by Smith after a protracted fight.
Smith's appearance changes slightly once he loses his status as an Agent. His sunglasses take on an angular shape that is an approximation of the rounded lenses Neo uses. In addition, he removes his earpiece and sends it to Neo as a warning.
Many other agents have appeared in the Animatrix, the Matrix console games, and the Matrix comics. Agents Ash, Bird, Finn, Fine, Gray, and White are the only Agents named there, but other unnamed Agents have appeared as well.
Agent White also appears in The Matrix: Path of Neo as a replacement for Smith after the latter was destroyed by Neo. White appears in only one section of the Redpill Rescue level called The Security Guard. He appears much like Agent Brown but has his own personality, and appears to be stronger than both Jones and Brown at the time as he gives Neo a fair degree of difficulty, even while Neo is the One.
Notable MMO agents
The Agents lived on in the film's continuation, the MMORPG The Matrix Online. In line with the brokered truce created by Neo at the end of The Matrix Revolutions, Agents were no longer assigned to kill redpills on sight. Instead, they guard various areas of the Matrix that are still restricted to the awakened. The Agents revert to their original programming with the collapse of the Truce.
Red-Eyed "Impostor" Agents appeared at the start of The Matrix Online storyline during chapter 1.1. These "agents" impersonated system representatives and began widespread sabotage and assaults on the awakened redpills in an attempt to stress/break the truce agreement. All three major organizations (Zion, the Machines, and the Merovingian) were quick to deny being responsible for the attacks and the impostors were soon declared a fourth group unto themselves.
It was soon discovered that these beings were not agents at all, but rather were using some kind of disguise technology to try to implicate the machines for their actions. Glowing red eyes and lack of system-issue firearms were flaws in the plan.
It is revealed in a "Report to the General" document that the Red-Eyed Agents are the General's, the Exile who used to command the Sentinels, commandos, taking into consideration that programs could gain access to other shells (like the way the Oracle changed appearance in the movies), made occasional documented reports to the General in various Zion and Machine critical missions, and also hinted that their disguises were malfunctioning.
Gray was one of several Agents trapped in the Matrix during the infestation known as Smith. His program was overwritten with new code, executing instructions which conflicted with his primary architecture. When Smith was defeated and Smith's program was withdrawn from the system, Gray was freed.
The Machine Civilization is run by cautious protocols, and there was still some chance that the Smith code had found a place to shelter within the system, or within an RSI. Agents that had been exposed to Smith were quarantined within the Matrix during the reset – something that is usually never done. Bluepills have their connections to the system attenuated so they never notice the event, and Exiles can seek shelter in a construct, but Agents have no such recourse. Those trapped in the system during the reset were literally turned inside out as their code was deconstructed and recompiled with a vicious error-checking routine.
Even afterward, he has not been allowed to return to the Source, instead relegated to a buffer system created during the reboot – a gateway construct which acts as a Machine analog to the Merovingian's Mobil Avenue Station. In some ways he is almost an Exile, but for the fact that he believes he will eventually be able to return to the Source.
Due to his current situation, Agent Gray was selected to act as recruiter and Controller for human beings that the Machines believe can assist them in controlling the Matrix. Like all Agents he is normally dispassionate and aloof, with a precise manner of speaking, but his forced dealings with humans have left him with somewhat more understanding of them than most Agents.
When dealing with humans, he uses many euphemisms, as he has found that humans often prefer not to say what they really mean. Death is “cessation of awareness”; stealing is “expeditious acquisition”. He addresses humans by their gender titles and bluepill last name (e.g. "Mister Anderson"), and seems to have a foolproof way of knowing this information about every human to whom he speaks.
Though Gray resented his assignment greatly at first, he has come to appreciate that he is better at dealing with humans than most other machine Agents. Although he does not enjoy interacting with humans, his efficiency at it gives him a sense of pride.
Occasionally, a remnant of Smith's code has been known to influence his behavior, causing him to develop a misanthropic and homicidal attitude, as well as greatly increasing his power.
Agent Gray is voiced by John Patrick Lowrie.
Agent Pace is the first female Agent, created in the The Matrix Online storyline as an attempt by the Machines to better interact with their human liaisons. Agent Pace is somewhat less stern and more personable than other Agents, and often refers to her human liaisons using Italian terms, almost verging on "pet names" if AI could be said to use them (similar to how the Merovingian program decided that he prefers French over other human languages, Pace likes Italian). "Pace" also means "peace" in Italian.
The Agents have been described as being emblematic of "white male privilege".