Just after Neo takes the red pill, Morpheus leads him into another room with the rest of the team. As Neo sits, waiting, he observes a broken mirror. Suddenly to his surprise the mirror heals itself. After which he touches it, and it then consumes his arm and enters his body. This causes him to wake up in the real world.

You can see this played out here:

Watching the scene again made me wonder if it was a part of the trace pill, or if Neo was subconsciously using his powers to repair this in the Matrix.

How would the trace pill be able to repair (or change) the Matrix, even from Neo's perspective? It seems to me if it could do that, you could make programs to change the Matrix in a lot of ways.

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    Because, just as there is no spoon, there is no mirror.
    – Tango
    Dec 1, 2011 at 3:23
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    @Kevin, I'm not sure "there-is-no-spoon" should be a valid tag. Dec 1, 2011 at 15:31
  • 2
    Maybe not. But I think it's a fun tag It should probably be a synonym for [the-matrix].
    – Kevin
    Dec 1, 2011 at 15:35
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    Out of story possible explanation: having the broken mirror at the right angle to see a reflection of Neo without a face, and then have Neo 'fix' the mirror, or at least see it be fixed, is a metaphor for the process of extracting him from the matrix. In the matrix he is an anonymous battery, but he is waking up and thus reclaiming his individuality. Aug 20, 2012 at 5:05
  • In light of the 'word of god' answer from the Wachowskis, I wondered whether you'd wish to reconsider your acceptance of Ilmari Karonen's answer
    – Valorum
    Oct 23, 2016 at 22:24

8 Answers 8


In a rare webchat, the Wachowskis gave viewers some additional info about the mirror scene. In short;

  • It's just a mirror

  • The fact that it fixes itself, flows and melts is merely a result of Neo hallucinating.

ThedrickFel: What exactly was the mirror made of? Was it the same stuff they injected into Morpheus? Why silver?

WachowskiBros: The mirror is actually a mirror. When Neo sees it it’s a hallucination, but it’s the direct result of the pill Morpheus has given Neo. Reflections in general are a significant theme in the film. The ideas of worlds within worlds..

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    Interesting. That also explains why no one else in the room reacted - they knew Neo was just freaking out because of the pill.
    – Omegacron
    Jun 25, 2015 at 19:42

This isn't based on any official information, just pure armchair speculation... but:

On one level, the liquid mirror is just a manifestation of the dissolution of the fake reality of the Matrix. It evokes a dreamlike quality in keeping with Morpheus' lines during the scene, and also provides an element of growing tension that leads up to the shock of waking up.

This, however, doesn't explain why it's specifically a mirror — a melting wall would do just as well for that. On another level, though, a mirror is a metaphor for both perception and for a boundary. (Note the focus on Morpheus' mirror shades, and on Neo's reflection in them, in the previous scene.)

Before taking the pill, Neo's perception of himself and his surroundings was flawed, like the broken mirror — he perceived the illusion of the Matrix as real. The healing of the mirror is the first step in his beginning to perceive the Matrix for what it really is.

By touching the surface of the mirror, Neo takes a step across the boundary between the Matrix and the real world (there's almost certainly an allusion to Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass here, just as the previous scene referenced Alice in Wonderland), a step whose irreversibility is shown by the mirror swallowing up Neo completely.

On yet another (less metaphorical) level, it's not really clear whether the mirror engulfing Neo actually represents an effect of the pill, or of the Matrix fighting against it. In particular, some of the other characters' exclamations while the process is occurring could be taken to imply that the mirror represents some kind of countermeasure that is trying to kill Neo before the others can free him. Then again, that ambiguity may well also be intentional — there's a strong element of death and rebirth in the scene, and in the one that follows it. It might not matter whether it's the Matrix or the pill that's trying to kill Neo; the important thing is that he dies in the Matrix and is reborn in the real world.

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    Fantastic analysis.
    – user1027
    Dec 1, 2011 at 1:13
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    Lol, "armchair speculation"... Was that armchair red-leather perchance?
    – Möoz
    Mar 21, 2017 at 4:54

I don't think Neo was physically changing the mirror at all, it was his perception of the mirror that was changing. When he sees weird distortions in the mirror, he immediately turns to the others and starts to ask if they saw it too, but they all clearly didn't notice anything unusual.

The red pill was designed to, if I remember the quote correctly, "disrupt his input-output carrier signal". The process of disrupting his connection to the matrix likely caused his senses to become distorted, making him see things in messed up ways that the others wouldn't.

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    I think the others didn't react because that's what they knew was supposed to happen.
    – Kevin
    Nov 30, 2011 at 16:34
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    @Kevin: Possible, but is there always a mirror present when removing someone from the matrix like this? Would the others always know how removal from the matrix might manifest itself? I would imagine the others would simply see basically the same thing that happened when Morpheus later answers the subway phone and disappears.
    – gnovice
    Nov 30, 2011 at 16:39
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    I always assumed that when they are brought out for the first time, like neo, they would all be removed with the pill and mirror, possibly in the same room but they may need to move it occasionally in case the agents find it. And I haven't seen anything so far to convince me otherwise. (or really even suggest otherwise)
    – Kevin
    Nov 30, 2011 at 16:45
  • I believe there is a difference between connecting to the matrix as Morpheus and his crew do and being a part of it. They all generally seemed tense when being connected to the matrix, and likely because their signals were somewhat distinguishable from the others. If I had to guess, first time you leave the matrix, your body probably lays limp on the ground (much like being disconnected prematurely). To everyone in the matrix, they would probably find his body with traces of some hallucinogen and conclude he died of an overdose.
    – Neil
    Jul 7, 2014 at 15:48
  • Very good analysis. But one must wonder why the matrix hologram interactive program would allow entheogens such as the red pill which could be any number of serotonin alkaloid compounds LSD,DMT,Mescaline,Psilocybin available to its unwitting prisoners? allowing them the chance to break away from the input output carrier signal, and eventually out of the Archon matrix. Maybe its some form of adapt test like the ones done in multilevel cults. Created so hard to deduce or figure out only a limited amount have ever broken free. Maybe these are the Gods and their method of elevation and exaltation!
    – mark
    Nov 4, 2016 at 4:57

I doubt he was using his power, it didn't manifest at all until being shot at on the rooftop. I'm pretty sure it was part of the tracer program, but more some external aid than a part of the pill itself, especially given what happened afterwards (it enveloping him). And it could be that the mirror healing was to encourage the person being traced to touch it.


The mirror repaired itself because Neo had abilities to alter things inside the Matrix, but they were natural abilities that he was not aware of. When he started to realize that it was a simulation, he unconsciously started to have unusual abilities. The mirror engulfing him was the result of that power not being controlled properly by experience and conscious choice: it happened because it could, like water overflowing a bathtub if you don't shut it off.

The other people did not react because they knew that the whole idea of The One was that he could control the Matrix, and they were working feverishly to save him.


the mirror suddenly becoming whole again might symbolically signify the fractured sides of Neo (matrix persona / physical body) uniting as his body begins waking up in his pod. (based on a comment to the original question by @Dave Roberts)
edit: to clarify the mirror has many Neo's in it that all become (the) One image

  • aww. downvoted in less than 10 minutes. well sincere thanks to the OP for asking the question, since it inspired an answer that just made that scene more meaningful / entertaining for me.
    – lpt
    Aug 27, 2017 at 21:32

The mirror turning liquid and sticking to him was just an illusion. His body turning silver was his ‘file’ or his physical representation being deleted or pulled from the matrix. When you leave the matrix, something still needs to happen to your body in the matrix, an example being Trinity’s exit in the phone booth. Phones are their primary way of exiting the matrix. Hence, Neo’s scream exhibiting a telephone effect as he turned silver. As Morpheus explained, they needed to locate his body so they disrupted his input/output etc. the pill Neo took was used to wake him up in the real world. If you combine the two And think of it in terms of computers. When your program malfunctions. It’s best to close out and return to your home screen. This scene was essentially Neo’s CTRL+ALT+DELETE from the Matrix.


it was a part of the trace pill and this mirror was not a mirror it was a matrix program that help the tracing process

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