Apparently, when someone sees something strange or unusual in the Matrix, it triggers some kind of red flag that tells the agents "come here and take over that body". We see it a few times during the movie, like in the subway station, with an old hobo, for example.

Couldn't the agents add Morpheus's and/or Trinity's faces to the list of triggering elements? If not, what about a self-repairing mirror?

My point is: why didn't the agents simply take over Neo's body? They had many opportunities before he was out of the Matrix. Can't they see through his eyes?

Plus, on a purely cinematic level, imagine how dramatic the scene would have been. Morpheus would have had a dilemma: getting rid of the agent would mean killing the potential One.


11 Answers 11


This makes sense if you consider the following to be the case:

  1. Neo was probably not granted immunity by the machine upper hierarchy. I believe they only discovered he was the One when he was examined by the Oracle. At this point he was already unplugged.
  2. Agents were after Morpheus, not Neo. They did not know Neo was important. He was bait.
  3. Let's assume that, once a person's RSI is overwritten by an agent, that person becomes the agent till death. This assumption is supported by most scenes in the movies. It also explains why the agents did not take over Neo right up until Morpheus introduced himself. Neo is no use as an agent.
  4. The rebels knew the possibility of Neo being taken over. There was a gun trained on him all the way to the hideout. At the first sign of transformation (which takes about 3 seconds) he would have been shot and the agents' operation would have been blown.
  5. The only window of opportunity was from the moment Neo walked into Morpheus' room and to the moment he swallowed the pill (which disrupted his signal). This is the part that requires explanation.

So there are two possible answers:

  1. The room with the red chair (or the red chair itself) is shielded. We've seen the same chair used during important conversations in the sequels (even the Keymaker sat on it when he laid out the plan to get to the Room).
  2. The agents were relying on the bug to catch Morpheus because their alert program only kicks in when a person plugged into the Matrix notices an anomaly (such as a person disappearing into a phone receiver). Morpheus and the others did not use their 'powers' during their encounters with Neo. By the time the agents realized what had happened, the rebels were gone.
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    As Morpheus says, Agents can move in and out of any software (humans) still hard-wired into their system. Their host doesn't have to die for them to leave it. Their old host probably wakes up in bed like Neo did thinking it was all a dream, or maybe even unable to remember what had happened.
    – KeithS
    Commented Apr 17, 2012 at 0:58
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    – Nick T
    Commented Apr 18, 2012 at 21:59
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    Residual Self Image (matrix.wikia.com/wiki/Residual_self_image)
    – HNL
    Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 4:16
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    @KeithS Morpheus did say that agents can "move in and out of any software still hardwired to the system", but he did not directly imply that they could move out without killing the host. Could go either way.
    – HNL
    Commented May 3, 2012 at 5:24
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    @HNL In one of the comics, an Agent leaves its host. They pretty much just lose all memory of the experience. I don't know their canonicity.
    – Izkata
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 12:44

I think a lot of answer here are right :

/ First, Neo was a bait, so it would have been pointless to take him over before he meets Morpheus

/ After meeting Morpheus, he was no longer "takable" because no longer connect to the matrix.

But I would add that taking over a human (by a Agent) is not standard procedure : in the movies, it only happens in a crisis situation. Maybe it means the loss of a human, and the point of the Matrix is keeping humains alive, so from a computer point of view, the pros must be superior to the cons. It's like a escalation privilege : you don't do it if you could avoid it.

So it's much more normal procedure to plant a bug into a human (that could be easily erased from his memory and vanish like a dream) rather than take over his full body.

I would add that taking over bodies is precisely what Agent Smith does to challenge the Matrix and take control of it, so it shows that taking over bodies could be, by essence, dangerous and affects its very structure of the Matrix.


The basic idea is that the Matrix is so large, with so many connected individuals in it, that even the machines often have trouble finding a particular person. The person has to make themselves known (communicating via radio or other monitored channels, making their presence obvious to at least one plugged-in person like the hobo in the old subway station). In order to take over a human, the person must first still be plugged into the Matrix (and not hacking in), and second, the machines must have a fix on the human's location so they can basically "replace" the human in the Matrix program.

Neo was bait. He didn't know enough to be a threat - yet - but he was very interested in meeting Morpheus, and surprisingly, so was Morpheus. So, the Agents were very eager to catch and release, hopefully without Morpheus knowing they'd gotten him. Recall that they couldn't just zero in on wherever Neo happened to be in the office building; Morpheus could help him avoid being seen in order to make his escape, but Neo chickened out. However, the Agents failed at the second part (keeping Neo's capture secret); Trinity, waiting for Neo to get out of the building, instead saw him escorted out in cuffs. So, they knew that if they saw him again he'd likely be bugged, which would allow the Agents to get a fix on him without anyone having seen him.

They may have even known what was going on as the bug was being extracted, but if the Agents tried to possess him to prevent it, Switch would have shot him and they'd be no closer to Morpheus. So, they let the Nebuchadnezzar crew free him, trusting in their backup plan (Cypher), and in the fact that Neo didn't even have the training a normal rebel would have yet, and so (they thought) he'd be child's play to eliminate or even recapture.


That is not how the Agents work. Think about what we learn in the Matrix-simulation ("Woman in the red dress") where Morpheus takes Neo to; Agents control humans, because the humans that are being taken over want to be controlled by the Agents, they need the System, they protect the system. These humans are agents (not Agents) of the system.

At the point where they could have gained something by occupying Neo, he had seen too much, in addition to being not the biggest fan of the system beforehand. This means he was not a viable ally of the machines (any more).

Note that when they drive Neo to Morpheus (rainy scene), Switch points a gun at Neo, because he's bugged. I'd argue that this makes him temporarily a threat. It's not entirely conclusive, but you could say that as long as carrying the bug, he's unknowingly on the machine's side (and could still be taken over by an Agent). If he could have been taken over (and observed) by the Agents anyway why should they have bothered with a bug?

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    Except that in one of the Animatrix shorts, "Detective Story", the main character is in the process of being possessed by an Agent when he's shot by Trinity and left for dead; a failed extraction. Obviously there's something that keeps Neo from falling to the same fate, but that doesn't mean that all you have to do to prevent it is to not want it to happen.
    – KeithS
    Commented Apr 17, 2012 at 0:54
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    @KeithS: Yes, that fits perfectly. They even state in that episode, something along the lines that the Detective wasn't strong (willed!) enough, to live without the system. Maybe it's because he was too old, but he certainly was too dependent on the system to accept the truth ("be freed").
    – bitmask
    Commented Apr 17, 2012 at 4:05
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    Two points about Detective Story. 1) The detective was bugged right up to just before he began to change, and 2) at that time the Agents were after Trinity, who was present at that time. When Neo was debugged, the Agents were after Morpheus who was NOT then present, so there was less reason for them to grab for Neo at that time; maybe they figured they could likely get another chance at Morpheus through him later. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 5:19

That is a good point, but I also have to point out that agents only ever took over the bodies of those who aren't aware of the Matrix. It seems to be that once they discovered the truth, their minds were not corruptible.

Or just because they are no longer hooked up to the machines' equipment.

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    I'm not sure about that. Neo knows there is a Matrix, but he isn't really aware of it. He doesn't know what it is. And before he touches the mirror, he is still hooked up to the machine.
    – SteeveDroz
    Commented Apr 14, 2012 at 8:03
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    I think not being hooked up through the machines is the key part.
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 14, 2012 at 15:36

I guess I'll take a crack at this. I think the agents wanted Morpheus. Bugging Neo was just an attempt to see if he would lead them to Morpheus. They need Morpheus more than Neo, because Morpheus has the bargaining chip for the machines. He knows the location of Zion.

This explains why they don't care about Neo.

"Agents control humans, because the humans that are being taken over want to be controlled by the Agents".

Morpheus never said people want to be taken over by Agents. He explains that the people who are still connected to the Matrix are a threat, because they could be taken over by agents (since they are hardwired to the system) or they could be trick with a story like the one they try to fool Neo with. The whole "Morpheus is a terrorist" and you would be help us out is a Patriotism toward your country type of thing.

I have to agree with Simon when he said:

"But I would add that taking over a human (by a Agent) is not standard procedure : in the movies, it only happens in a crisis situation. Maybe it means the loss of a human, and the point of the Matrix is keeping humains alive, so from a computer point of view, the pros must be superior to the cons. It's like a escalation privilege : you don't do it if you could avoid it."

I can't not think of (off the top of my head right now) where at some point an Agent left a human body, and that human host was still okay. I think taking over a human body would kill the host, which is why they don't have millions of agents just jumping in and out of human host.

"Firstly, I don't think weird things trigger a red flag for agents"

Agree. I think that since the machines cant occupy humans without killing them, they depend on Matrix civilization for information. The "machines" are the government. They are "Big brother". When someone reports, like a 911 call, the machines monitor it. When they get reports of someone jump buildings ( would be rare i would think), they would send agents to check it out. They could also put people like Trinity on terrorist list so if they are spotted, people could report them. I think this because in the first Matrix, the agent tells the officer you were given specific orders not to enter the building and wait for the us to show up. Office just tells him to screw himself and that they could handle one women. This hints to me that they depend on the humans for information about these "red flags"


One remote possibility is that - visavi the Architect and the Oracle knew that Neo was The One - ergo, he was off-limits (whitelisted) to the agents.


Firstly, I don't think weird things trigger a red flag for agents, but that they just control the communications. That's how they managed to know where Trinity was at the beginning of the film, that's how they found the building where Morpheus's team was, and that's how they knew where Trinity, Morpheus and Neo were trying to log off.

Secondly, I don't think, either, that agents can see through still-connected-to-the-Matrix people's eyes, or the buggy thing they had inside Neo would be meaningless.

So, if what the Agents apparently want is information from Morpheus, and they were already supposed to have it through Neo's tracer, there's no point in taking Neo's body as well, right?


It doesn't make much sense to me why the agents didn't take over Neo when they knew where he was before he got unplugged. I have to go along with the idea that the Architect didn't want the One to be hurt. The Machines needed the one just as much as Morpheus did. If the One isn't alive to make the choice then the Matrix can make him part of the "Source".


Once you are unplugged from the matrix, it means you are no longer on that network. Your IP address, password, accessibility has changed. You are in the matrix's software like a virus and cannot be access like the other programs although you can be seen and affected by actions of others in software or agents.

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    The question is asking why the Agents couldn't take over Neo's body "before he was out of the Matrix".
    – Null
    Commented Jun 19, 2016 at 3:23
  • I see. In this case is where we have the red pill. After taking the pill, this disrupts Neo's signal to the matrix and confuses the database to his whereabouts as well as warping the reality. The agents didn't want to take Neo out of the matrix but considered have him another battery. They were unaware of his super powers and even Morpheos remarked,"if they knew what I knew you'll be dead." Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 22:40
  • Also the architect did mention something about people being given a choice as suggested by the Oracle and some accepted but a few dissented. However it became complex as Neo realized some hidden truth with the source. That this was already known and had occurred 6 times. Machines may have had to respect choice that was all ready already made. Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 23:16
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    – Null
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 3:28

At that point, Neo knows nothing of Interest. The agents ,however, know the rebels need/want him. The agents need Morpheus and so they make him out to be a bad guy. This will trigger the bug (electronically) so the agents can quickly lock on to his location.

Agents can control anybody in the matrix hardwired in machine city. They also have control over Sentinels and other machines and rebels from Zion who are constantly scoping the matrix for these people.

The Zions use some form of WiFi (lol) to enter the matrix which stops the Agents from hooking in (humans did build the machines, lol). These are the Keys which Smith keeps referring to. Once they have them they can scandalize the "WiFi" giving them back control of the Zions.

As for leaving by phone,that's just a human touch. They could have used anything really but the phone gives them a feel of being human.

You have to remember the Machines main goal is to survive so ,as long as they have power, this little battle in the matrix is of little consequence to them. But Neo realizes their has to be peace (lol) so makes that his goal.

Also, the machines are becoming aware that Agent smith (being a dirty virus now) will just consume control over everything he can and actually kill everything if he does not stop.

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