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Unpacking the ending of 'The Matrix Resurrections'
It takes two.
At last, the wait is over. The Matrix Resurrections is here, adding a fourth part to the saga launched by the Wachowskis more than two decades ago and giving the entire franchise a sense of reinvention and revitalization. This time around, director and co-writer Lana Wachowski gave us yet another portrait of a man named Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) and his search for the truth amid a reality that seemed to be fraying at the edges, but this wasn't just a Matrix reboot. No, from its opening sequence to its status quo-altering climax, this was a film on a mission to recontextualize everything we thought we knew about this entire story, recentering it for the world we live in now and setting the characters on a new course for the future.
So, now that the film is out in the world, let's talk about that ending.
**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers for The Matrix Resurrections below!**
After trailers for the film showed us that Neo was once again trapped in some version of a Matrix-driven life, going through the same routine every day and taking blue pills prescribed by his therapist, The Matrix Resurrections eventually revealed to us that Neo was actually already working on his own way out, even if he didn't know it. A game designer by trade who'd turned his memories (which, of course, he didn't know were memories) of his Matrix adventures into a hit video game trilogy, this version of Thomas Anderson tried to explore that side of himself a little deeper by building what the film calls a "modal," a pocket world made of code in which he could essentially grow new versions of the personas in his game, including a personality that essentially blended Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) with Agent Smith, until the program itself became self-aware and broke through. It was through this modal that the resistance captain Bugs (Jessica Henwick) found him, ultimately freed him, and launched Neo on a journey to reclaiming himself, his memories, and his place in the world.
But of course, it was never just about Neo. In fact, the ending of The Matrix Resurrections is much more about his other half, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). Like Neo, she's also been mysteriously resurrected, and is living her life as a wife and mother named Tiffany, who, though she doesn't remember Neo, still seems drawn to him in the coffee shop they both frequent. When Neo reawakens to the world, and sees the human resistance in its new home city, Io, he sees a world that seems to have moved on from the fight he remembers. Niobe (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and her people would rather live in harmony with the machines they've managed to bond with than keep freeing minds and battling power structures. The old struggles, it seems, aren't the same, but one remains: He wants, he needs, to be with Trinity.
When Bugs and her crew agree to help him reach out to her, Neo heads into the Matrix to try and explain her past life, and in the process learns what's really going on: A new architect of The Matrix, The Analyst (Neil Patrick Harris), has been keeping the two of them at arm's length for years. He resurrected them both after their deaths in The Matrix Revolutions, rebuilt their bodies, and planted them back in the Matrix where they'd be close to each other, but not too close. Why? Because he's discovered that human emotion is actually key to the manipulations of The Matrix, and by keeping that sense of distant longing between Neo and Trinity, he can generate massive amounts of energy out of their bond and shared power.
Throughout Resurrections, Wachowski builds an elegant, satirical deconstruction of legacy sequels and reboots with this new story, throwing barbs at everyone from Warner Bros. to Matrix fans who insist they're the only ones who really know what the story is about. Whether it's through the game developers at Thomas Anderson's company or through the Analyst himself, she builds an incisive case for rethinking these kinds of films, and nowhere is it more apparent than in this reveal. The Analyst has almost literally picked Neo and Trinity up like a pair of old toys, restored them, and put them back up on the shelf in their special packaging, where they can't touch but can co-exist together as two sacred pieces of a long-ago story. To take them out of those boxes and play with them again would break the magic and diminish the value, so he keeps them at arm's length like a collector, never allowing them to move on beyond the story he knows and holds dear. It's a potent metaphor, and a great setup for what comes next.
The Analyst is willing to make a deal with Neo: If he can convince Trinity himself that she's really meant to be with him, she can go free. So, while his compatriots sneak out to Trinity's pod to try and free her body in the real world, Neo tries to free her mind in The Matrix. At first, it doesn't work, and he doesn't even get far enough to give her a red pill. Then, just as it seems she's leaving, Trinity feels the pull of the artificial world around her, sees it warp as her husband turns vicious and tries to pull her away. And then...Trinity's back. With a little help from Agent Smith (Jonathan Groff, having a blast), still as roguish a program as ever, she and Neo break free.
What follows is the Analyst throwing everything he has at Neo and Trinity as they escape through the city, joined eventually by Bugs, Morpheus, and the crew. Neo's growing power to project forcefields around himself and Trinity comes in handy, even as the Analyst uses the "swarm mode" of his new Matrix drones (yeah, a lot more people walking around the Matrix now aren't actually people) to literally use bodies as bombs against them. Finally, it's just the two of them at the top of a building, looking out over a city at sunrise, and taking a leap of faith together. Though he's still clearly gifted, Neo's age has been showing alongside his Matrix-warping abilities. He can't fly anymore, or if he can, he hasn't managed to yet. So when they jump, neither of them have any idea what will happen.
And then, it turns out to be Trinity who flies.
For all the other reinventions at the core of The Matrix Resurrections, from the harmonious relationship between freed humans and certain machines to the recontextualization of Smith to Morpheus becoming a program rather than a living human man, it's this revelation that turns out to be the most potent. The Analyst told Neo that there was something powerful about Neo and Trinity's bond, something that generated tremendous energy as long as he kept them apart, something that could generate something much more if they were pushed back together. When they finally are rejoined, the Analyst is proven right, perhaps in ways that even he hadn't dreamed. For years we've seen this story as the story of two people who loved each other, but Neo was always presented as the more "important" figure in that story. It was up to Trinity to lift him up, to save him, to support him. Now the roles are reversed, and it becomes clear: It was never about one of them being more powerful or more important than the other. It was always about the love they shared. That's where the power comes from, not from programming or perception or knowing kung fu. In a world in which a huge chunk of humanity has grown complacent and another huge chunk of humanity still hasn't woken up to the truth, what was really worth fighting for all along was the thing the Analyst derided as the source of all human manipulation: feelings.
So, where do Neo and Trinity go from here? Clearly they're off to paint the sky with rainbows, and set an example of what freeing your mind from the Matrix is really all about, but we don't know if that means we'll actually get to see them again. But perhaps we don't need to. Perhaps The Matrix Resurrections sends them off in the best way possible all on its own, by reminding us that no matter how strange and how manipulative the world gets, our greatest strength in the end is each other.