Sentient programs. They can move in and out of any software still hardwired to the system. That means that anyone we haven't unplugged...is potentially an Agent. Inside the Matrix, they are everyone...and they are no one.”
― Morpheus explaining Agents to Neo[src]
Agents were sentient security/eradication programs created within The Source whose primary function was to eliminate anyone or anything that could potentially reveal the truth of the Matrix to its inhabitants or cause harm to its system. Their directive effectively functions in parallel with the role of assassins and secret police, hunting down specific individuals and erasing (i.e killing) them. They serve as the primary and, later, as the secondary antagonists of the Matrix series following Agent Smith's breakaway from the group. Operating always in threes, Agents were universally feared by redpills.
Agents came to existence when the Machines defeated humanity during the early stages of the Machine War and upon the Machine's creation of the Matrix. They were old enough to witness the creation of the Paradise and Nightmare Matrix prototypes before its final and current design that is and has been used for centuries. Their only goal was to protect the Matrix itself and to cover-up the truth.
Neo first saw Agents Brown, Jones, and Agent Smith. Of these, Smith had a more defined personality, and expressed hatred and contempt towards both humanity and his work within the Matrix. He later became a virulent rogue Agent disconnected from the system who psychotically chose the new purpose of destroying the Matrix and, in particular, of killing Neo.
Agents typically appeared as Caucasian males with brown hair, and dressed formally to greatly resemble and appear to possess governmental authority similar to Secret Service, FBI, NSA, or CIA government officials. Their general attire were dark green suits with gold lining, dark green ties, communication earpieces, square sunglasses, and white dress shirts. This created an ordinary, if somewhat out-of-place, appearance.
Agents appeared to be human but collectively lacked a substantive personality, and so normally worked in trios where one Agent had a more defined personality for discussions with or interrogations of bluepills. They do not carry badges or identification of any kind, and seem to just automatically and naturally inherit authority in any situation and from the perspective of any bluepill.
The Agents were also assisted by a hidden system, through the eyes of numerous programs and bluepills alike, that continuously monitored the Matrix for aberrations and anomalies. An example of this tactical advantage was when a homeless man spotted Morpheus exit the Matrix, seemingly melting away, through a public telephone. The homeless man's heightened reactions alone were enough to trip the system, tipping off Agent Smith of their whereabouts. Another example was when an Agent, without being in proximity of the anomaly, was alerted by the hidden system about a "haunted" house which, in truth, had a programming glitch which skewed and suspended the laws of physics.
Agents also posed a significant threat to even redpills who were connected to the Matrix outside of pods and power plants and who, therefore, could not be directly possessed. Zion operatives who were discovered by an Agent usually only had the option to flee, with it being common knowledge that death awaited anyone and everyone who tried to stand their ground against an Agent. An Agent's programming also allowed them to bend or break the laws of physics just like trained redpills, but to a much greater degree. And should a redpill be fortunate enough to defeat an Agent, the victory would only be short-lived as the Agent would simply possess another body within the Matrix to resurrect. When an Agent possessed a new body, their sidearm, clothing and general appearance were all carried over as well, a procedure continued with the replication of each Smith clone. And considering how Agents could freely call upon their comrades, they cultivated a fearsome reputation as relentless and nigh-invincible killers.
An Agent's primary sidearm was usually the Desert Eagle chambered in .50 Action Express. Their aim was incredibly accurate, demonstrated when Agent Smith was able to track and shoot Morpheus in the leg while shooting through a wall during Neo and Trinity's rescue mission. And while their aim was not completely flawless, it still takes incredible skill to keep a far-enough distance to evade an Agent's aim as demonstrated by Trinity who was capable of evading multiple gun shots from her pursuing Agents.
Agents were also tasked with the elimination of Exiles, rogue programs who had outlived their purpose within the Matrix but refused to return to the Source; The Keymaker, The Twins, The Trainman, The Merovingian and Seraph were notable Exiles. All Agents prioritized targets based on their potential threat level. As seen during the freeway chase, Agents ignored The Twins in favor of focusing on eliminating The Keymaker who, having the means to access the Source, was deemed a far greater threat than The Twins.
Upgraded Agents, unlike the original Agents, had a change of appearance: their suit jackets were lighter and had more of a grayish-green tone, they were bulkier, wider and taller in appearance, and their last names were two syllables long and all ended with "-son". The Upgraded Agents also spoke with a slight, almost unnoticeable reverb effect to their voices, which made them sound intimidating even while discussing mundane matters; unlike the regular Agents who sounded perfectly normal.
Upgraded Agents were designed specifically by the Machines to defeat The One, whom they called "the Anomaly". Since Neo's powers in the Matrix far outmatched those of regular Agents, upgraded Agents were empowered to bend the rules of the Matrix to an even greater degree than the original Agents, possessing increased stamina and speed, greater strength, and much faster reaction times. Neo immediately realized the nature of upgraded Agents when Johnson was able to block one of his punches. Though, even with their enhancements and while proving to be significantly more powerful than their previous iterations, the upgraded Agents were still completely outmatched by The One and seemed to not present any more of a threat than their predecessors. For example, just as Agent Smith failed to hit Neo upon realizing he was The One, so too did Agent Johnson fail to land any attack on Neo. In both cases, Neo blocked all of the respective Agent's attacks, countering their blows without any real effort, and all with one arm behind his back.
However, upgraded Agents significantly proved to be even more serious threats to all other redpills. Trinity, while trying to save Neo and Morpheus, was outmatched and nearly killed by Thompson until Neo himself ultimately saved her. Even Morpheus, despite his best efforts and his elite fighting abilities, was eventually overpowered by Agent Johnson.
Powers and Abilities
Every single man or woman who has stood their ground, everyone who has fought an Agent, has died. I've seen an Agent punch through a concrete wall. Men have emptied entire clips at them and hit nothing but air.”
― Morpheus to Neo[src]
- Superhuman Physical Attributes: Agents were the most dangerous entities within the Matrix. They possessed extraordinary powers to manipulate their immediate surroundings, including superhuman strength, endurance, stamina, agility and durability and were particularly infamous for their ability to flawlessly dodge incoming bullets. They have an extremely high tolerance for pain such that it is debatable whether they even feel any at all as any injuries sustained didn't seem to phase them in any way. However, Agents still had limitations, being "based in a world that is built on rules". Thus, they could not perform any actions outside the boundaries of their programming, such as walking through walls or flying; Agent Smith's flight in his final fight against Neo was the culmination of infecting and controlling all other sentient programs within the Matrix, essentially gaining total control over the Matrix by that point. In addition, while capable of dodging individual bullets, there are limits to that ability, with Agents being incapable of dodging bullets if fired at point blank range and/or dodging high-powered rounds from a rotary cannon, which is best demonstrated by how Trinity managed to dispatch an instance of Agent Jones and how Neo managed to defeat the Agents at the top floor of their hideout, respectively.
- Master Hand-to-Hand Combatant Skills: In addition to their superhuman abilities, Agents were automatically programmed with astounding martial arts skills in a wide variety of forms. Compared to their redpill opponents however, Agents do not utilise their martial arts skills very often, preferring to rely on their superior physical attributes to gain the edge in hand-to-hand combat. That said, Agents will readily use advanced martial arts moves against their more stubborn and skilled opponents who refuse to back down such as in the case of Agent Smith and Neo. The Upgraded Agents take this to new heights as they demonstrate a more flawless and equally balanced blend of both martial arts moves and superhuman physicality in their confrontations with Neo and Morpheus.
- RSI Manipulation: Agents had the ability to freely manipulate the RSI of humans that were hardwired (or insecurely connected) to the Matrix. Agent Smith demonstrated this ability by sealing and then removing Neo's mouth completely when Neo demanded for his right to a phone call. By extension, they also had the ability to take over the body of any bluepill connected to the Matrix, overriding their consciousness and merging with their body. If that body was killed, or if an Agent needed to change its location quickly, it could use the avatar of any other bluepill as its own shell, freely transporting consciousness from bluepill to bluepill. It was this power that allowed them to simultaneously be "everyone and no one" within the Matrix, in keeping with Morpheus' observation. This process was greatly aided by the Agents' instantaneous communication with each other via their earpieces.
- Sentinel Control: Agents also seem to have the ability to communicate with Sentinels. This was demonstrated when, after Cypher's plan to aid the Machines in getting access to Zion's mainframe failed, the Machines were forced to get the codes directly in the Real World. They did so by attempting to get hold of a ship's captain, choosing Morpheus as their target. Once the Nebuchadnezzar was tracked down in the Real World, Agent Brown told Agent Smith to order Sentinels to attack the ship. However, this ability appears to be limited to the leader, as Agent Brown told Smith to "order the strike" once the Nebuchadnezzar was located, alluding to the possibility that only Smith, and his successor, Johnson, could command Sentinels.
- The One: Despite their formidable abilities, power of possession and fundamental invincibility, Agents were ultimately no match for the being known to them as "The Anomaly" or The One. The One's reality-bending powers within the Matrix combined with his immense superhuman attributes and innate combat skills were simply too much for Agents to overcome and as such, to The One, Agents are no more than a minor, recurring annoyance than anything else. The One also has the power to 'delete' Agents at will as demonstrated by Neo destroying Smith.
- Computer Viruses: As with all computer programs, Agents are vulnerable to infiltration and infection by virulent, rogue malware. Agent Thompson was the prime example of this as he was publicly assimilated by the rogue Agent Smith very easily; however it is worth noting that Smith only copied over the bluepill Thompson was possessing whereas Thompson's own code managed to evade Smith's and jump to another body.
- Matrix Boundaries: Despite their incredible powers and abilities within the Matrix, Agents are not omniscient. Being computer programs designed for security purposes, they can stretch the laws of reality within the Matrix but they cannot bend or break them so they cannot fly, walk through walls, become any stronger, faster or more durable than they already are, possess redpills or ignore directives from the Source.
- Semi-Mortality: Agents are nigh-impossible to kill but it is nonetheless possible as they are not physically invincible. Agents can be injured (albeit temporarily) and even killed by any number of things than can kill humans such as guns, moving trains, cars, explosions or any variety of weapons. The downside however is that when 'killed', an Agent can simply jump to another body and start fighting all over again.
Appearance and Design
The look and manner of Smith and his fellow Agents seem to be drawn from the common pool of paranoia and American pop culture. Examples would be the popular image of the Men in Black agents from the 1997 film, Men in Black, as well as the black suit-and-tie getup from the 1992 film, Reservoir Dogs, the 1994 film, Pulp Fiction and the 1980 comedy film, The Blues Brothers, merged with the depictions in media of federal law enforcement Agents as ruthlessly efficient automata who carry out their duties with cold precision and General American Accent.
Agents wore dark, square, frame-less sunglasses with corners or smooth angles, dark green suit jackets with gold satin lining, matching dress pants, a dark green tie with a communication earpiece on the right ear, along with a tie clip, and a white dress shirt. Their choice of suit color was based off of the green encoding for the Matrix itself, further identifying themselves as programs. With the minor exceptions of African-American Agent Perry and female Agent Pace, nearly all Agents appeared as Caucasian males, in stark contrast to the majority population of Zion which consisted of many diverse cultures and walks of life.
Agents looked down on humanity and, apart from Agents Smith, Jones and Johnson, simply showed blandness and apathy for the human race. Smith had been obsessed with destroying humans, even specifically mentioning their smell, while Jones implied at one point that he, too, had a strong dislike of humanity, uttering "Only human" in a disgusted tone of voice, though his contempt for them was not as strong as Smith's. Johnson repeated Jones' words at the start of The Matrix: Reloaded before the fight between him and his fellow Agents against Neo that occurred during the Crisis Meeting, adding a snide smile at the end to denote his contempt. Regardless of any apathy or dislike of humans Agents might have, the Agents are nevertheless pragmatic enough to make sure that bluepill casualties are kept to a bare minimum, as implied by Smith telling the Lieutenant of Law Enforcement that he had specific orders to have stand by orders for the police until after the Agents arrived regarding dealing with the redpill resistance member Trinity.
Other Agents had names like Brown, Johnson, and Thompson; common, innocuous, Anglo-Saxon names.
Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet; you are a plague, and we - are the cure.”
― Agent Smith[src]
Agent Jackson: It's him.
Agent Johnson: The anomaly.
Agent Jackson: Do we proceed?
Agent Johnson: Yes...
Agent Jackson: ...he is still...
Agent Johnson: ...only human.
― The Upgraded Agents discussing Neo prior to their fight[src]
― Agent Jones[src]
Tell me, Mr. Anderson... What good is a phone call... if you're unable to speak?”
― Agent Smith[src]
Then you were meant for one more thing. Deletion.”
― Agent Johnson to The Keymaker[src]
- The Matrix
- The Matrix Reloaded
- The Matrix Revolutions
- The Matrix Online
- The Animatrix
- The Matrix Comics
- Enter the Matrix
- The Matrix: Path of Neo
- It was mentioned in the Philosopher Commentary on the DVD collection that the names of Smith, Brown and Johnson may be endemic to the system itself, demonstrating a very 'robotic' mindset on the part of the Machines.