Several Matrix characters escaped the simulation by themselves, as in without external help like Keanu Reeves’ Neo received. While Thomas Anderson could feel that there was something wrong with reality, it was only thanks to Morpheus and his crew that Neo woke up from the Matrix. Neo was offered a choice between the Blue Pill and the Red Pill, the latter of which worked as a tracking program. Neo was just one of many people Morpheus and the humans from Zion helped escape from the Matrix.
The process through which a person wakes up from the Matrix without external help is known as self-substantiation. No case of self-substantiation happens on-screen in any of the Matrix movies, yet the expanded Matrix universe has many examples of it. Here is a breakdown of every Matrix character who escaped the simulation by themselves.
9The First “The One”
In The Matrix, Morpheus tells Neo about “the One”, the savior described in the prophecy. According to Morpheus, the founder of Zion was the very first person to wake up from the Matrix simulation. Morpheus believed that person to have been the first and only “One,” and that Neo would be the second. Morpheus was not aware, however, that there had actually been five Ones before Neo. Between the first One waking up from the Matrix and Neo’s story in The Matrix, four other cycles had taken place. It must also be noticed that the prophecy described by Morpheus was fabricated by the machines, as the One was part of the Matrix’s equation all along.
Regardless of what The Matrix’s prophecy meant, whoever woke up first from the Matrix likely did it through a self-substantiation process. After all, there would not be a team of humans from Zion ready to give them a red pill or track down their bodies in the real world. According to the prophecy, the first One freed a group of people from the Matrix simulation, who then freed others, and so the human city of Zion came to be.
8“The Kid” From Matrix Reloaded
“The Kid,” Clayton Watson’s character in The Matrix Reloaded, first appeared in The Animatrix’s “Kid’s Story.” While The Animatrix’s worldwide release happened only after The Matrix Reloaded’s premiere, a few selected theaters exhibited the animated film a couple of weeks before Reloaded. When the Kid thanks Neo for saving him, The Matrix Reloaded is referencing the events of “Kid’s Story.” During that Animatrix short, a teenager begins to question the world around him. Similar to Thomas Anderson in The Matrix, Michael Karl Popper felt that there was something wrong with his reality.
“Kid’s Story” takes place after The Matrix, meaning that Neo was now part of the Nebuchadnezzar’s crew. Just like Morpheus and Trinity reached out to Neo in The Matrix, Neo reached out to Michael Karl, hoping to free the Kid from the Matrix. However, instead of having to take the blue tracking pill, the Kid simply trusted Neo’s words and chose to believe that he was not in the real world. The Kid’s trust in Neo and his perception of the world around him as an illusion led him to wake up from the Matrix by himself.
7Dan Davis From The Animatrix’s World Record
The Animatrix’s “World Record” short also featured an example of the self-substation process, perhaps the most visceral of them all. Inside the Matrix, athlete Dan Davis was training to break the world record for his sprint speed category. Davis was much faster than his adversaries, which means that his mind had better control of the Matrix compared to the other athletes. Dan Devis was just so determined to break the world record that his mind ignored the physical limitations that his body should have, which essentially broke the Matrix around him. Just like Morpheus jumped between buildings and Neo deflected bullets, Dan Davis ran faster than any human ever did.
Dan Davis broke the Matrix to such a level that he momentarily woke up from the Matrix simulation. As his Matrix self was bending reality to break the world record, Dan Davis woke up in the real world and got a glimpse of the machines’ power plants. Seeing the real-world Dan Davis in despair while his Matrix self completed the sprint was a visually stunning moment that exemplified how difficult it is for someone to wake up from the Matrix by themselves. However, Dan Davis was brought back into the simulation and seemly forgot his experience in the real world.
6Dez From Sweating The Small Stuff
Sweating the Small Stuff by Bill Sienkiewicz is one of many canon Matrix comic books. In this story, protagonist Dez goes through a similar experience to Thomas Anderson at the beginning of The Matrix. Dez is questioning his sanity and the world around him, which means that he was beginning to see through the Matrix. Dez eventually became able to see through the Matrix’s code. For example, when looking at a portion of sugar, Dez could see the little green computer codes from the Matrix. Similar to what happened to Dan Davis and the Kid, the machines soon sent Agents after Dez to prevent him from escaping the simulation.
5Emma Pearson From A Path Among Stones
In Gregory Ruth’s A Path Among Stones, Emma Pearson goes through a self-substantiation-like process. Emma is somewhat aware that her world is not real, and she can see the real world by closing her eyes. However, Emma’s ability to escape from the Matrix for a few seconds led her to be diagnosed with Schizophrenia inside the simulation. Emma Pearson’s cases also caught the attention of the Matrix’s Agents, who tracked her down and concluded that she was escaping from the Matrix from time to time.
Goliath by Neil Gailman, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Gregory Ruth brought aliens into the world of The Matrix. While adding aliens to the Matrix franchise can make things way more complicated, Goliath was a very interesting take on the franchise. Goliath was centered on an unmade protagonist who realize he was in a simulation after the aliens destroyed the real-world apparatus keeping him inside the simulation. The protagonist’s realization that he was not real led him to break up with his girlfriend, as he concluded that nothing in their lives ever really mattered.
3Jeffrey Zeissman From The Matrix Online
The Matrix Online was a canon multiplayer Matrix game set after the events of The Matrix Revolutions. Jeffrey Zeissman was one of the original The Matrix Online characters created for the tame, and he joined the crew of Neo’s Hope through an accidental process of self-substantiation. Zeissman suffered a heart attack inside the Matrix and woke up in the real world. Luckily for Zeissman, a human Hovercraft from Zion was passing by right as he woke up from the simulation.
2Raven Underwell From Artistic Freedom
Artistic Freedom by Ryder Windham and Kilian Plunkett saw a very unique example of self-substantiation. The story followed Raven Underwell, an artist who happened to craft several sculptures that looked exactly like The Matrix‘s machines sentinels from the real world. Raven believed that her inspiration had come from a dream, yet it was based on her brief experience in the real world. Raven once woke up from the Matrix and caught flashes of the real world from time to time without realizing what was really happening.
1The Wife From Déjà Vu
In Déjà Vu, a Matrix comic book by Paul Chadwick, the main character’s wife was going through strange experiences, including predicting future events. The wife seemed disconnected from reality, yet she was actually getting close to exiting the Matrix. During her nightmares, the wife could see glimpses of the real world mixed up with the Matrix simulation, which configures an example of self-substantiation. Both the wife and the husband almost concluded that they were not in the real world. However, the Matrix simulation “won” the battle against the couple, making them forget all their theories and focus on everyday events within the Matrix.