The Matrix Reloaded and The Never-Kings

Movies Jun 11, 2024

The Matrix Reloaded is a film about keys, and the types of locks for which they are built.

Livermore, California: a lightbulb burns for over a million hours [1]. In 2013 the electricity failed and the bulb remained dark for almost ten hours. “When it was plugged back in it shined at 60 Watts for a few hours” [2] to this day, no one knows why it grew so bright. Yet the lights in my study seem to die once a year.

Mid-way through the 1920’s the aptly named Phoebus Cartel reduced the standard lifetime of bulbs by more than half to ensure continued sales [3]. A modicum of research as an adult reveals this to be less cloak and dagger intrigue, and more straightforward bureaucracy, motivated by unsustainable capitalism. As Friedel describes on the first page of his short yet gripping paper “Wouldn’t it, in fact, be so nice and simple if this were true” [3].

Wouldn’t it be satisfying for complex, systematic problems to be reduced into simple individuals. Bad actors behind the scenes: grifters in a strange land of creatures and danger with nothing but the cards up their sleeves taking you for everything they can. There’s something darkly admirable about the Wizard behind the curtain, isn’t there? The great complexities fall away and we’re left with an individual, nothing more than a thinking, feeling person, who must be located and stopped.

The Architect reveals that Neo is a mathematical anomaly: a sliver of entropy otherwise unavoidable, but nonetheless predictable [4]. The Oracle is responsible for the One. An exercise that provides the insinuation of choice for ninety-nine percent of humans in the Matrix. The remaining one percent abandon the simulation to form Zion, and are then destroyed once another anomaly arises. Neo is the sixth such anomaly.

Conversely, when Dorothy confronts the man at the end of the journey, she protests that “if you were really great and powerful you’d keep your promises” [5]. After the reveal that there is no wizard, just Oscar Diggs behind a curtain, he confesses that “he is a good man, just not a very good wizard” [5]. Diggs fails to help Dorothy’s companions, fails to help Dorothy, and erroneously drifts away on the same hot air balloon that accidentally drew him to the land of Oz. Even the name Oz is an accident produced by branding on Diggs’ balloon. Naught but a vacant throne all this time. Little remains of Oscar’s rule but those who defied him.

The Architect portends the end of Zion as a foregone conclusion. So too Trinity’s death. After all, this is the design of the simulation working. Neo’s powers are not exceptional, but rather, a product of the system. Except even this pattern, Neo breaks. He reaches through existence, desecrating reality itself to revive Trinity. Back in the Desert of The Real, Neo slays a machine with his mind: the allision of the simulation and reality. Neo is more than a mathematical blip.

Programming be damned. Dorothy too has the power within to break from the fantasy: all she need do is believe and click her heels three times.

Formless ambiguity clouds both acts of determination. Neo only shatters the Architect’s rules because the Architect tells him there are rules. So too Glinda tells Dorothy she has the ability to go home and always has. Imagine if Glinda had said “now you can go home” - would Dorothy have clicked her heels three times and remained in place, mute and confused. If the Architect had told Neo “of course he can save Zion” would he have believed it? Does knowing why the Centennial Light grew bright after being plugged back in diminish the object’s meaning? The key or the lock.

The Desert of The Real is a lightless wasteland, an act of human intervention that accidentally produced the Matrix. Fitting that those who sought to control the light we produce named themselves after Phoebus, the god of the sun [6]. Even this is a lie. Phoebus is to Apollo what Christ is to Jesus: the legend surpassing the truth. Epitet and eidolons. So too the myth of the Cartel’s conspiracy devours the unadorned reality. So too Glinda’s words make the magic possible. So too The Architect breathes Neo’s defiance into the universe. Except: is that what happens?

No beginning or point of terminus. Does one forge the key for the lock, or does the key have no meaning until the lock? Perhaps this is what Baudrillard meant when he said we live in the fragments of the map, convincing ourselves it is the territory [7]. If we lack a point of reference, how do we set our vector? How can we ever know true north? This is the work of Reloaded. “You see there is only one constant. One universal. It is the only real truth. Causality. Action, reaction. Cause and effect” [4].

The Architect tells Neo he cannot save Zion. The Wizard tells Dorothy he cannot help her.


Neo saves Trinity and rejects the cycle. Dorothy helps herself and The Wizard drifts away from his kingdom.


What we do is the only thing we control: we must grasp the primordial flame and never let go. Even as we work, our work makes us. Keys and locks. Locks and keys. Cause. Effect. The Matrix Reloaded is a film about keys, and the types of locks for which they are built and the monsters that tell us what they are supposed to mean.

This essay was written as part of a collaboration with A Method To The Madness. I urge you to follow their content like I do.


[1] Everlasting Lightbulbs? They Exist. Well, Existed (2021). C. McFaden. Interesting Science. URL:

[2] Centennial Light facts (2015). Livermore Lightbulb Centennial Committee. URL:

[3] Obsolescence: Origins and Outrages (2013). R. Friedel. Technology and Culture. Johns Hopkins University Press. Volume 54, Number 1, January 2013. pp. 167-168.

[4] The Matrix: Reloaded (2003). The Wachowskis. Distributed by Warner Bros. Warner Bros. Pictures

[5] The Wizard of Oz (1939). V. Fleming. Distributed by Loew's, Inc. & Warner Bros. And not to beat a dead horse but IMDB is wrong about the distributors of the film multiple times and that’s only after disabling javascript to bypass their paywall, what a shitty website.

[6] Lucan and Phoebus (1983). Tucker, Robert A. Latomus, vol. 42, no. 1, pp. 148–51. JSTOR, Accessed 23 May 2024.

[7] Return to Source: Philosophy & The Matrix (2004). J Oreck. The worst website of all time, IMDB, refuses to provide the distributor or copyright holder but it has to be Warner Bros right? God, how is IMDB the best option?

Additional Resources (video version, in order):

Video by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels:

Video By Bartell’s Backroads (ABC10) | World's oldest bulb provides light 120 years after its first flicker:

Video by Flying Dutchman from Youtube: America in the 1910s & 1920s - Footage only - HD:

Video by PBS NewsHour from Youtube:  President George W. Bush’s address to a joint session of Congress following 9/11 - Sept. 20, 2001:

Video by Yaroslav Shuraev from Pexels:

Video by Steven HAuse from Pexels:

Video by The Instagrapher from Pexels:

Video by Aljoscha Laschgari from Pexels:

Music (video version, in order):

IamDayLight - War Zone

Idokay - Fall Down


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David McNeill

David McNeill is the author of Maynard Trigg and editor-in-chief of ZeroIndent. He's a dedicated storyteller with a background in literary analysis and comms.

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