Defined as people who possess specific qualities of enlightenment, awareness and/or the ability to bend aspects of the Matrix to their will.”
Potentials (occasionally confused with Redpills) were humans who had started to reject the Matrix to some extent, but were not yet fully awakened. Some had abilities within the Matrix, while others perhaps simply witnessed something they couldn't explain and were under threat from Agents as a result. Freed children were still called potentials during testing to see if they had what it took to one day become fully fledged operatives, as they were only able to join a hovercraft crew at the age of seventeen.
A handful of children who were still connected to the power plant were privileged enough to study under The Oracle. They lived with her and The Priestess in the Matrix where they were taught about the nature of the system and practiced their abilities to bend the Matrix and manipulate objects with their minds alone, as well as meditation.
Among these were Saga, a rabblerouser who played with her powers during practice, two girls that juggled and levitated toy blocks and Spoon Boy who had the ability to telekinetically bend spoons, and taught Neo when he came to see The Oracle for the first time, saying "Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead only try to realise the Truth... There is no spoon... Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.", which gave Neo the first hint of his own power when he managed to bend the spoon offered to him.
Exodus of potentials
Between the coming of The One and the end of the war, Neo's presence within the Matrix sparked a new exodus of potentials. But, because they were unable to stop Neo, the Machines turned their attention to those within their grasp. Sentinels set a trap for one of our ships, and from the ship's mainframe they extracted a list of potentials. The Agents levelled their wrath on the helpless, and Neo was the only one who could stand against them.”
Consider what we have seen, Councillor. Consider that in the past 6 months we have freed more minds than in 6 years. This attack is an act of desperation.”
― Morpheus to Councillor Hamann on the Siege of Zion[src]
After choosing his destiny as The One and giving the Machines the warning that what happens next was up to them, Neo saved five adult potentials from the exodus of potentials who were under threat from the Agents after they were extracted from a Zion list of potentials.
The unnamed ship
There was an unnamed ship of potentials which flew to broadcast depth to allow children freed from the Matrix to be tested there to see if they've got the "right stuff": the abilities that make them potentials and will eventually allow them to become redpill Resistance operatives.
Lisa and Ashley were two of the children aboard the ship while their mother, Maggie, was on a mission given to her by The Oracle to search for more potentials in the Digi-Caribbean. After watching the operator closely and remembering every keystroke, button press and dial turned, they initiated a trace on the Calappidae so they could find Maggie in the Matrix. Ashley jacked Lisa in and managed to get her to the right beach, but unwittingly allowed the Machines to find the location of the hovercraft, inadvertently killing their mother and the rest of the crew.
- Spoon Boy
- Saga Talmer
- Lisa & Ashley
- The Healer
- Chuang Tzu
- The Club Kid
- The Librarian
- The Security Guard
The nature of the potentials seen in The Matrix is unclear, as The Priestess directs Neo to wait with "the others" in the room before she is ready to see him, making them appear to be other candidates of The One, or possibly past or future incarnations.
Path of Neo
In The Matrix: Path of Neo, the story continues between the first film and its sequels by telling the story of potentials (which it also calls Red Pills) in danger who must be rescued by Neo.
The Matrix Comics
A number of The Matrix Comics include potentials: "Artistic Freedom" features Spoon Boy, and "Run, Saga, Run" goes into more depth with their training, as well as telling Saga Talmer's adventures in the rest of the Matrix. "Broadcast Depth" includes a mission to find potentials as well as a hovercraft full of them and "Burning Hope" also describes a mission given to a team by The Oracle to find a potential called Hope who could change her RSI at will.
- Exodus of potentials
- The Matrix: Path of Neo has a mission "Red Pill Rescue" and the instruction manual refers to them as Red Pills, mentioning them in the Allies & NPCs section: "Red Pills are people who are just beginning to awaken to the illusion of the Matrix. Each Red Pill has a special trait that has made them a target of the Agents, and it's up to you to learn how those traits can sometimes be useful to Neo's missions." Despite this they were called potentials in the cinematic before the Red Pill Rescue mission.
- Kidsays to Neo in Reloaded that "next year I'm old enough to join a crew." and, after lying to Mifune that he was eighteen, confesses that he is only sixteen after being told by Mifune that he might have believed that; perhaps lying again.