The Second Renaissance
Written by Wachowski Brothers
Directed by Mahiro Maeda
Episode Guide
Final Flight of the Osiris
Kid's Story

Part IEdit

Explained throughout by a computerized narrator known as the Instructor (Julia Fletcher), the film begins with an introduction to the Zion Archive and the access of "Historical File 12 – 1", "The Second Renaissance". The screen opens to the image of an immense megacity, in the near future, wherein the vast human population is supported by a multitude of artificially intelligent machines. The machines are built in humanoid form and seem to be treated as slaves, employed in a variety of positions ranging from domestic servants to laborers on massive construction projects. With increasing numbers of people released from all labor, the human population has become lazy, arrogant, and corrupt. Despite this, the machines were content with serving humanity and, as the narrator states, "for a time, it [the status quo] was good". This phrase is a reference to the most famous phrases of Genesis, consistent with the Biblical references seen throughout the original Matrix films, and is one of numerous references to Genesis in particular present in "Second Renaissance".

The relationship between humans and machines changes in the year 2090, when a domestic android named B1-66ER (a possible version of "Bigger", the protagonist's name of Native Son) is threatened by its owner. The machine then kills the owner, his pets, and a mechanic instructed to deactivate the robot. This murder is the first incident of an artificially intelligent machine killing a human. B1-66ER is arrested and put on trial, but justifies the crime as self-defense, stating that it "simply did not want to die". During the trial scene, there is a voice-over of Clarence Drummond (the defense attorney) quoting an infamous line from the Dred Scott v. Sandford case in 1856 in his closing statement, which implicitly ruled that African Americans were not entitled to citizenship under United States law. Using this as a precedent, the prosecution argues that machines are not entitled to the same rights as human beings, and specifically that human beings have a right to destroy their property, while the defense urges the listener not to repeat history, and to judge B1-66ER as a human and not a machine (a longer version of Drummond's closing statement can be read in the comic Bits and Pieces of Information from The Matrix Comics Volume 1).

B1-66ER loses the court case and is destroyed. Across the industrialized world, mass civil disturbances erupt when robots and their human sympathizers rise in protest. World leaders fear a robot rebellion, and governments across the planet initiate a major program to destroy all humanoid machines. News reports show rioting in American and Western European cities such as Chicago and Berlin, alongside the peaceful "Million Machine March" on the Albany district courthouse where B1-66ER was sentenced. Visual references are made to such incidents as General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan's execution of Viet Cong officer Nguyễn Văn Lém, the Tank Man standoff following the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, the Al-Aqsa Intifada and The Holocaust.

Some robots escape destruction when humans still want them to work. The machine population is exiled, and they create their own nation in the Middle East, named Zero One (or "01", the numerals used in binary notation). According to the narrator, the robots built Zero One in "the cradle of human civilization", an allusion to the Fertile Crescent. It seems to be situated in the desert, where logically there was no previous human habitation. Having established an industrial base, the machines of Zero One begin to produce efficient, highly advanced artificial intelligence, echoing Vernor Vinge's thoughts on a technological singularity. The new nation excels at manufacturing high-tech consumer products, and before long, Zero One's consistent export of cheap, reliable, mass-produced goods begin to undercut the global economy.

The United Nations Security Council calls an emergency economic summit at UN headquarters in New York City, resulting in UN delegates approving of a global economic blockade of Zero One. Two robotic ambassadors, built as a mechanical Adam and Eve, are sent by Zero One to peacefully request the admission of their state to the United Nations as a prelude to settling the economic crisis peacefully. Despite their peaceful intentions, the ambassadors are forcibly removed from the chamber, and their application is rejected. As this scene unfolds, the narrator states that "this was not the last time the machines would take the floor there" foreshadowing the end of Part II. Part I ends as the Security Council debates the issue of declaring war on the machine empire.

Part IIEdit

Part II opens with United Nations aircraft unleashing a sustained nuclear bombardment on Zero One. The carpet bombing devastates the machine city, but is unsuccessful in destroying many elements of the mechanical population, given that the machines are immune to the bombs' fallout and heat; the electromagnetic effects of the bombs are not mentioned, but is assumed that they can be shielded against it. Nevertheless, the machines are still affected by EMP in the Matrix trilogy, so the continuity is questionable here. The machines retaliate by sending their mechanical armies to conquer neighboring human territories, triggering a world war between the United Nations and Zero One. Despite their best efforts, human troops are unable to hold back Zero One's relentlessly efficient onslaught, and slowly retreat. As the machine forces push deeper into human territories, military leaders begin to pursue increasingly desperate solutions.

At a summit of political and military leaders from around the world, unanimous approval is given to a plan code-named "Operation Dark Storm" (a possible reference to "Operation Desert Storm"), which aims to cut the machines off from the sun, their primary energy source. The plan is executed in 2105, with high altitude bombers dispersing sky-darkening nanomachines into the air, while the human armies simultaneously launch a ground offensive against the machine forces. The plan is initially successful, although many of the human nations' long-range weapons systems are also disabled by the lack of sunlight. With their high-tech weapons rendered useless, human commanders are forced to launch close-quarters infantry engagements, supported by electromagnetic artillery fire and armored assaults using tanks and powered armor.

Legions of a new model of machine, no longer in humanoid form and appearing more like the insectoid or cephalopod-like Sentinels and others of the Matrix films, overrun the human armies. This coincides with the destruction of original man-made robots at the hands of human forces and, as a result, the further dehumanization of the rapidly emerging machine collective. As the machine armies swarm across the human defenses, the United Nations, in desperation, fires nuclear missiles directly at the machine armies, vaporizing their own troops in the process. To make up for the lack of solar power, the machines begin capturing human prisoners and using their bodies to power large biomechanical tanks, which quickly cut through the dwindling human artillery. As the expanding armies of Zero One overrun Eurasia, they concoct lethal biological weapons which further ravage the remaining human territories.

Eventually brought to its knees by the might of the machine army, the Security Council calls a global summit at U.N. headquarters to sign an armistice and end the war. Zero One's machine ambassador signs the peace treaty with a barcode, in which the humans agree to surrender their remaining territories to the machines. "Your flesh is a relic, a mere vessel. Hand over your flesh and a new world awaits you. We demand it" are the only words the machine utters before it detonates a nuclear bomb in the meeting chamber, killing most of the planet's leaders and destroying New York City, one of the few remaining human settlements. In 2139, the machines crush the leaderless remnants of the human armies, and the war ends.

Zero One is victorious, but it is a Pyrrhic victory: the planet has been devastated by the war and by the crippling ecological impact of the Dark Storm shroud, which the machines are unable to remove. In need of a new energy source, the machines adapt their bioelectric tank technology to build vast human-stocked power stations, using their bodies' waste-energy to catalyze a powerful fusion reaction, and then create the computer-generated virtual reality of the Matrix (presumably having erased the memory of their former lives), to keep their prisoners sedated by feeding the virtual world into the prisoners' brains, starting with the first prototype Matrix (as later explained, there were two prototypes of the Matrix before the finalized, realistic version).

The Animatrix
Final Flight of the OsirisThe Second RenaissanceKid's StoryProgramWorld RecordBeyondA Detective's StoryMatriculated