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What happened at the end of The Matrix trilogy?

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The Matrix Revolutions’ ending may still be key to the upcoming Matrix 4

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Neo flying to Trinity’s rescue in The Matrix Reloaded Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

The long-awaited first trailer for Lana Wachowski’s The Matrix 4 aka The Matrix Resurrections is out in the world, reintroducing the psychically gifted freedom fighter Neo (Keanu Reeves) and his lover Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). The first look at new trailer is sleek and eerily familiar to the events of 1999 original, with shots of Neo walking through the rippling reflection of a mirror, sparring with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Morpheus-like character in a dojo, and pills — lots and lots of blue pills.

Somehow, it’s been nearly 18 years since the release of The Matrix Revolutions, the third film in the original Matrix trilogy, and a lot has transpired since then, both off and on screen. For anyone scratching their head trying to remember what happened at the end of Revolutions, and how those events might offer a clue to what happened leading up to The Matrix Resurrections, now seems like a pivotal time to reconsider a look back. Wachowski seems to remix and/or fold over the mythology in new and fascinating ways in the series’ new sequel, making the complicated lore more relevant.

2003’s The Matrix Revolutions ended with Neo traveling to the Machine City alongside Trinity in Niobe’s (Jada Pinkett Smith) hovercraft ship the Logos in attempt to broker a truce with the machine leader and end the war. While en route to the city, Neo and Trinity are ambushed by Bane, a human resistance fighter assimilated by Agent Smith during the events of The Matrix Reloaded. Neo fights Bane, and in the process is blinded by an exposed power cable during the scuffle. Despite this, Neo discovers he has the ability to see the machine source code in the real world, enabling him to “see” and ultimately defeat Bane. As the Logos makes its approach to the Machine City, the ship is bombarded by the city’s defenses. The Logos manages to make it into the city, but Trinity is fatally wounded upon arrival, leaving Neo on his own. Neo meets with the machine leader, proposing a truce between the humans and the machines on the condition of defeating their mutual enemy, Agent Smith, who poses an immediate threat to both the Matrix and the Real World.

Neo (Keanu Reeves) blinded with burn marks in The Matrix Revolutions Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

Neo ultimately defeats Agent Smith, but his fate is left up to question; we see his body cradled on a hovering barge which subsequently carries him into the Machine City. The Sentinels, the human-hunting killing machines who were ordered by the machine leader to stop attacking the human city of Zion per the conditions of Neo’s truce, are seen retreating from Zion after Smith’s defeat. The Matrix is then seen rebooting itself in the wake of Neo’s destruction of Agent Smith.

In the final scene of the film, The Architect (Helmut Bakaitis) meets with the Oracle (Mary Alice) in a park, telling her that she “played a dangerous game” by introducing the variable of Trinity into this latest incarnation of the cyclically recurring system of the Matrix and planning for this outcome. As was explained to Neo by the Architect at the end of The Matrix Reloaded, there have been a total of six different iterations of the Matrix created to imprison humanity and assimilate the human race’s impulse for resistance into the self-perpetuating cycle of its existence, wiping out all humans freed from the Matrix between iterations before creating a new generation of resistance fighters led by a different “One.” What separates Neo from all previous Ones is that his love of humanity, which was a constant across all his predecessors, was instead focused on one person in particular: Trinity. This gave Neo the motivation to not perpetuate the cycle of destruction built into the Matrix and instead prioritize her life at the end of The Matrix Reloaded.

Neo’s (Keanu Reeves) body surging with energy as he rids Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) from the Matrix. Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

In the end, the Architect and the Oracle agree that any human who wishes to leave The Matrix would now have the opportunity to do so, and that the truce will last, “as long as it can.” The Oracle is approached by Seraph (Collin Chou), her bodyguard, and Sati (Tanveer K. Atwal), a young self-aware program whom the Oracle adopted earlier in the film as a ward. When Sati asks if Neo will ever be seen again, the Oracle replies, “I suspect so. Someday.”

What does this mean for The Matrix Resurrections? It’s reasonable to speculate that the film takes place some time after the events of The Matrix Revolutions, given the disparity between Neo’s appearance in that film and his appearance in the upcoming installment. When we last saw Neo, he was being carried away by the machines into the heart of the Machine City. A shot in the trailer suggests he may still be there, or that the machines took care of him following the reboot of the Matrix.

The Matrix Resurrections: Robot sentinels take care of Neo after Matrix Revolutions Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

Based on the the final scene between The Architect and the Oracle, it seems the Matrix in The Matrix Resurrections could be an entirely separate construction created specifically for Neo, a kind of life support system sustaining his mind as the machines possibly work to “resurrect” his body. That might explain the uncanny visual references to moments from the original Matrix seen in the trailer, as well as a few moments that pull actual footage from that first film.

So how does that explain the appearance of Trinity then? Though we saw her die during the events of The Matrix Revolutions, there’s no reason to think the Trinity we see in this trailer is not in fact the original Trinity, but rather a projection of Neo’s lover created through memories culled from his mind.

As for new characters played by Jessica Henwick (Love and Monsters) and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, the ending of The Matrix Revolutions suggested that many humans would continue to thrive and survive in the real world for years to come after the machine’s attack. It’s possible that they resemble some faction of the human resistance who is attempting to retrieve Neo’s body from the Machine City and potentially endangering the stability of the truce.

We’ll know for sure when The Matrix Resurrections hits theaters and HBO Max on Dec. 22. In the meantime, all three Matrix films are currently streaming on HBO Max.