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The History Of Morpheus From The Matrix Explained

Neo may be the main protagonist of "The Matrix" films, but no character in the series is as iconic or as effortlessly cool as Morpheus, Captain of the Resistance hovercraft Nebuchadnezzar. Originally portrayed by Laurence Fishburne, Morpheus is our guide through the complex simulated and physical worlds of the franchise, purveyor of some of the most memorable movie monologues of his time. But Morpheus isn't just a fountain of exposition in a trench coat and sunglasses; he's also an action hero in his own right and the philosophical heart of "The "Matrix" trilogy. In a realm where a person's potential is limited only by their belief in themselves, Morpheus has the strongest faith of all, and he's willing to share it with you.

While his role in the original trilogy is gradually reduced with each film, Morpheus remains a critical character throughout the series, even receiving a new incarnation of sorts in the long-awaited fourth chapter, "The Matrix Resurrections." His story has also been expanded a bit in a comic book tie-in and a video game sequel, giving us a peek at his early life and at the aftermath of his victory in the Machine War.

Come take a quick look back at Morpheus' journey. Like the man himself, all we're offering is the truth, and nothing more.

Morpheus is freed from the Matrix as a child

Like most people freed from the virtual reality prison of the Matrix, Morpheus is awakened into reality as a child and spends his adolescence in the last human city of Zion. Life in Zion can be harsh, far less comfortable than the simulated reality in which he was born, but Morpheus acquires a strong sense of discipline and faith, preparing himself to do battle against the machines and to free the rest of humanity.

As depicted in the comics story "The Miller's Tale," Morpheus attends a Zionite ceremony in remembrance of Geoffrey, a brave teenager from decades past. Geoffrey sought to bring some hope and richness to the lives of his fellow Zionites by recreating a simple joy of the old world: bread. Geoffrey disobeyed the orders of his elders and allocated a few of Zion's resources towards growing and milling wheat so that his people could share in a dignified and nourishing human achievement.

One can infer the profound effect that this story has on Morpheus, who, as an adult, would frequently buck authority in the pursuit of a better future for humanity. It may also have fueled a bit of his own messiah complex — Geoffrey died to make Zion's semi-annual feast possible and is now a legend. If Morpheus should die for a profound spiritual victory, might he get a feast of his own?

Morpheus and Niobe fall in love

As an adult, Morpheus joins the Resistance against the machines. He presumably serves as a crew member on at least a few Resistance hovercraft before becoming the Captain of his own, the Nebuchadnezzar. Within the Matrix, Morpheus becomes a formidable warrior and hacker, infamous even among humans who are still plugged in and unaware that their world is an illusion. The authorities label Morpheus a terrorist, dubbing him "the most dangerous man alive."

Among those closest to Morpheus is Niobe, a fellow "redpill" who chose to unplug from the Matrix and join the Resistance. Morpheus and Niobe become romantically involved for a time, though it's unknown if they ever serve on the same ship or if they live together in Zion. Niobe also rises to the rank of Captain, commanding the hovercraft Logos. Their relationship becomes complicated when Morpheus meets with the Oracle and receives a new calling that takes priority over all other concerns in his life.

The Oracle tells Morpheus his destiny

As part of their war against the machines, there are many among the Resistance who believe in the prophecy of the One, a legend spread by the allegedly prescient spiritual leader called the Oracle. The One is a person born in the Matrix who has the ability to manipulate its simulated reality at will and is destined to lead the humans to freedom. The One has already lived a century ago and is responsible for freeing the first group of humans who established the Resistance and the city of Zion. The Oracle has foretold that the One will be reborn one day to finish what he started and defeat the machines once and for all.

Many members of the Resistance seek out the Oracle in the Matrix for guidance about their future. When Morpheus meets the Oracle, she tells him that he will play a pivotal role in the salvation of mankind — Morpheus is destined to find the One and release him from the Matrix, setting humanity's victory into motion. Morpheus takes this message to heart and pledges his life to the search for the One, setting aside all other concerns and attachments. His relationship with Niobe falls apart, and they go their separate ways, as Morpheus surrounds himself with a crew that is equally committed to his cause.

Morpheus' unshakable faith in the Oracle's prophecies gives him boundless confidence, and he becomes a second father to much of the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar. Among his most loyal acolytes is his second-in-command Trinity, who has also received a unique prophecy from the Oracle that will allow her to identify the One when she meets him.

Morpheus finds Neo

In "The Matrix," Morpheus finally tracks down the person he believes to be the One, a hacker called Neo, who is obsessed with the strange feeling that his world is not what it seems. Morpheus sends Trinity to monitor Neo and eventually makes contact, inviting him to meet with Morpheus himself. Morpheus offers Neo a choice represented by two pills. If Neo takes the blue pill, he'll return to his own life and never hear from Morpheus again. If Neo takes the red pill, Morpheus will show him the truth about the world, but there will be no going back. Morpheus has offered this choice many times before to other humans trapped in the Matrix (it's implied that he personally freed Trinity and her shipmate Cypher, among others), but this decision could be the defining moment in Morpheus' quest. 

Luckily, Neo takes the red pill, and Morpheus and his crew are able to disconnect him from the Matrix, awakening him to the harsh reality of the real world. Morpheus soon introduces Neo to the prophecy of the One and begins training Neo to fulfill his destiny. Neo has a hard time believing that he's somehow the savior of humanity, but Morpheus' faith is unshakable. He attempts to shake Neo of his preconceptions about what is possible, showing him that, within the simulation of the Matrix, one can exert their will to bend or break the laws of physics to become an unstoppable warrior. Neo needs only to believe in himself as much as Morpheus believes in him, and he can be strong enough to defeat the machines.

Morpheus resists the Agents' torture

During a mission in the Matrix, the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar is betrayed to the machines and cornered by their Agent enforcers. To ensure that his crew can get Neo to safety, Morpheus throws himself at the Agents. Since no human has ever survived a fight with an Agent, Morpheus does this with every expectation that this sacrifice will mean his death.

Instead, he's captured and brought to a government stronghold for interrogation. As a Captain in the Resistance fleet, Morpheus possesses the security codes for Zion's defense mainframe. The machines know they'll never be able to coerce this information out of Morpheus by conventional means, so they inject his avatar in the Matrix with a computer virus intended to break his will. Morpheus fights their influence for hours, expecting that his crew will make the practical choice to unplug his body from the Matrix, killing him before the virus can force him to talk.

Neo and Trinity, however, are unwilling to sacrifice Morpheus and hack back into the Matrix to save him. Their daring rescue attempt is a success, and with their help, he's able to regain his strength of will and rid his mind of the Agents' influence. Neo also finds his faith in himself during the mission and accepts his destiny as the One, validating Morpheus' faith in him.

Morpheus butts heads with Jason Lock

"The Matrix Reloaded" picks up six months after Morpheus's rescue and Neo's ascension to digital demigod. As Neo's power in the Matrix grows, so does Morpheus' reputation among the people of Zion. More and more residents, Resistance members, and government officials put their faith in the idea that Neo will defeat the machines and end the war. This is a source of frustration for Jason Lock, Commander of Zion's defense forces, who is not a believer and wants Zion to focus their efforts on bolstering the city's defenses (as if that wasn't enough, Lock is also Niobe's live-in partner and is clearly jealous of her and Morpheus' former relationship).

This conflict comes to a head when it's discovered that a massive army of machine Sentinels is drilling towards Zion from the surface. Zion will need to rally every ship and every soldier to have even a chance of repelling the invasion, but Morpheus convinces Zion's ruling council to allow him and a few other ships to leave the city and broadcast into the Matrix so that Neo can continue his prophesied path to victory. If Lock were thinking objectively, he'd realize that even the full strength of Zion's military doesn't stand a chance against the machines and that Morpheus' gamble, far-fetched as it is, might be their only chance. Lock, however, is too stubborn and too wounded by the subversion of his authority to see it that way. He fights Morpheus at every turn, but Morpheus wins not only the faith of the council but also the vocal support of the people of Zion.

Morpheus rallies the Resistance to fulfill the prophecy

Neo meets with the Oracle and returns with a mission that he's been told will bring the path of the One to an end. Neo and company will need to break a program called the Keymaker from a well-guarded dungeon, sneak him and Neo into a particular building, and disable the power grid of Mega City to disable its explosive security countermeasures. This mission will require the cooperation of three separate hovercraft crews, and Morpheus convinces Captain Niobe of the Logos and Captain Soren of the Vigilant to lend their support. Together, they successfully shepherd Neo and the Keymaker to their destination, fighting off both Agents and the Keymaker's wardens along the way. For his part, Morpheus fends off an Agent in a one-on-one fight, demonstrating that the emergence of the One has helped Morpheus will himself even greater strength and endurance in the Matrix.

Neo's mission, however, turns out to be another trick put in place by the machines. The Oracle's prophecy is actually a complicated ruse through which the machines have been manipulating the Resistance. The war continues, with no clear path forward. Even hearing about this twist straight from Neo's mouth, Morpheus' faith still can't be fully broken. He soon bears another blow to his resolve when his beloved hovercraft Nebuchadnezzar is destroyed by Sentinels. The crew survives, but the future of the Resistance is left uncertain as the machine army grows ever closer to Zion.

Morpheus and Niobe reconnect

"The Matrix Revolutions" picks up immediately after the destruction of the Nebuchadnezzar, as Morpheus and his crew are picked up by another Resistance hovercraft, the Hammer. They're joined shortly thereafter by the Logos, commanded by Morpheus' ex, Captain Niobe. The three crews decide that their best course of action is to return to Zion to help them defend against the machine invasion. Meanwhile, Neo has learned that he still has a chance of ending the war if he can make his way to the machines' capital city in person.

Niobe volunteers to pilot the Hammer through a dangerous shortcut back home to Zion and offers Neo and Trinity the use of the Logos for their trip to the Machine City. Niobe may never have believed in the prophecy of the One, but she does believe in Neo (Niobe's been on her own journey, as depicted in the tie-in video game "Enter the Matrix"). Morpheus acts as Niobe's co-pilot for the rest of the mission as she navigates the Hammer through a narrow passageway to Zion. The experience draws them closer together, and it's strongly implied that they'll be resuming their relationship after the end of the war.

His faith in the One is rewarded

When the Hammer reaches Zion, its EMP weapon buys the Resistance a few precious hours before the machines can regroup and resume their invasion. During his debriefing with the council, Morpheus reasserts his faith in Neo. While he no longer possesses the sense of absolute certainty in the Oracle's prophecies that drove him for so many years, he still believes that his friend will do everything possible to put an end to the war. The Sentinels once again breach the city but suddenly halt their advance. The rest of Zion's forces are puzzled, but Morpheus knows that this is Neo's doing.

Hundreds of miles away, Neo has negotiated a cease-fire with the machines. A former Agent called Smith has transformed into a nigh-unstoppable computer virus that threatens to consume not only the Matrix but the entire machine civilization. Only Neo stands a chance against him in battle, so Neo offers to plug back into the Matrix and confront him in exchange for an end to the war. Neo succeeds at the cost of his own life, and the Sentinels retreat from Zion. Morpheus is the first to understand what's happened. His faith and a lifetime of struggle rewarded, Morpheus embraces Niobe and sheds tears of joy and relief.

The Matrix Online teases Morpheus' fate

Morpheus is the only main character from the original "Matrix" film to survive the entire trilogy, and his story has been continued both in the series' original continuation, "The Matrix Online," and in the much later film sequel "The Matrix Resurrections." "The Matrix Online" was a massively multiplayer RPG that operated between 2005 and 2009 and dealt with the Machine War's aftermath. One of the game's early storylines reveals that the machines have not returned Neo's body to Zion. Morpheus is enraged by this and sets out on a deadly campaign to destabilize the Matrix until his friend's body is released. Soon after, Morpheus is assassinated by a program presumably working for the sinister Merovingian, but the mystery is never fully resolved. It's unknown as of this writing whether or not any story elements from "The Matrix Online" will be honored in future stories.

Morpheus will also reappear in "The Matrix Resurrections," now played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in place of original actor Laurence Fishburne, though Abdul-Mateen has implied that his character may not be exactly the Morpheus we remember. For answers, we'll just have to wait until Morpheus offers up the red pill once again.