Atlas: What Happens to Smith? Does He Die?

Against the backdrop of a war waged between humanity and AI, the emotional narrative of ‘Atlas’ unfolds the unlikely partnership between two individuals. As the deadly AI soldier Harlan schemes to bring about the end of human society for a new reign over Earth, Atlas Shepherd remains dedicated to stopping his genocidal plans. As a result, the woman— a skilled data analyst— finds herself jetting off to a faraway planet as a part of a mission attack against the rogue AI threat. However, a turn of events leaves Atlas stranded on the alien planet of GR-39 with Smith, an AI-powered mech suit, as her sole companion.

Consequently, to ensure her survival and Harlan’s defeat, Atlas must find a way to overcome her mistrust of AI and team up with Smith. Throughout the story, Smith remains an armor around Atlas as the duo undergoes consistently life-threatening instances, leaving viewers to worry about the bot’s well-being. SPOILERS AHEAD!

Smith’s Primary Protocol: Keeping Atlas Safe

Smith is an AI-powered computer program created by the ICN for the ARC mech suits that ranger soldiers operate for combat missions. Each suit has a distinct AI, leaving several Smith-like counterparts for every ranger. In order to operate the suit to its fullest capabilities, rangers form a neural link with their AIs, allowing both parties access to each others’ minds— or data banks. By doing so, the rangers and AIs can operate as one functioning unit within their ARC suits.

However, the same proves to be an issue for Smith and Atlas. Initially, when Atlas joins Colonel Elias Banks on his mission to GR-39 in the Andromeda Galaxy, she only accompanies him as a specialist rather than a ranger. Nevertheless, after Harlan attacks their vessel, Atlas separates from the rest of the group, engulfed in an unpiloted ARC suit. Consequently, although she survives the fall from the ship, Atlas gets stranded on the planet, crawling with Harlan’s army.

Thus, as Atlas is compelled to employ the help of the AI in her ARC suit, Smith finds his introduction into the story. At first, Atlas attempts to go on without forming a neural link with Smith due to her innate trust issues, especially around Artificial Intelligence. Nevertheless, soon enough, a tricky situation leaves the woman with no choice but to work with Smith for their shared survival. Therefore, at Smith’s insistence, Atlas agrees to begin the formation of a neural link. As it turns out, the process presents a bigger order than the woman realized.

In order to form a steady neural link, Atlas needs to allow Smith access to the deepest recesses of her brain— a particularly challenging task for someone as guarded as the woman. Still, she shares the truth of her relationship with Harlan, whom Atlas’ mother, Val, created. The further Atlas lets Smith into her brain, the deeper their neural connection becomes, increasing their chances of survival. In the meantime, the duo traverses through the dangerous planet with the crash-landed escape pod as their ultimate goal.

Eventually, as their journey takes them near Harlan’s base, Atlas comes up with the idea to geotag the location so that a contingency team could bomb the area. Although the instance leads to a brief disagreement between Atlas and Smith, it also helps them understand each other better. For the same reason, the bond between the two strengthens immensely by the time Harlan’s army inevitably catches up to them, leading to their capture. During this time, Harlan separates the two and needles Atlas for the security code that will help him move past Earth’s defenses.

Therefore, as the end nears, Atlas finds herself bound and unable to stop Harlan. However, once her fellow prisoner, Banks, realizes that Smith is in the same cavern, he reveals that the bot still has a reactor that will prevent it from shutting down entirely. As such, at the last leg of their fight, Atlas has to complete her neural link with Smith to reunite with him and stand a fighting chance against Harlan. As a result, she bears her secrets, allowing the bot to learn her part in Harlan’s escape from his programming, which eventually drives him to terrorize humans.

By showcasing such vulnerability, Atlas and Smith finally sync up, coming to each other’s rescue. Back in the ARC suit, Atlas cuts her way through Harlan’s army— with considerable help from Banks— and enters a final confrontation against her mother’s creation. Although the battle remains brutal and gruesome, Atlas and Smith fight against Harlan tooth and nail. Ultimately, the duo manages to stop Harlan, with Atlas retrieving his CPU and killing everything else.

Yet, one last hurdle lay in Atlas and Smith’s paths. The AI’s primary function has always been to protect the ranger inside of the suit and ensure their survival. As such, after bleeding a significant amount of its battery, Smith realizes Atlas can only have enough oxygen to make it to the escape pod if she abandons him on the planet. Where Atlas wouldn’t have given a second thought to saving an AI’s life at the film’s start, she’s broken up by Smith’s decision.

Over the course of their adventures, Atlas has grown impossibly fond of Smith, forging a friendship with him that she hasn’t achieved even with other humans. Smith empathized with her past and showed her immense compassion. Therefore, Atlas isn’t willing to say goodbye to him just yet. Nonetheless, their predicaments force them into the same demise. Thus, as the rescue team arrives— following Atlas’ initial SOS signal, the woman leaves the planet alone, verbalizing Smith’s parting prayer, “peace to the fallen,” back to the bot’s deactivated hull.

Afterward, Atlas returns to her normal life— this time without the threat of Harlan and his army looming in the distance. Furthermore, she has also managed to rise through the ranks and has become an official ranger. On the first day of her initiation to her new ARC suit, Atlas goes for the same standard voice she opted for with Smith. As such, an eerily similar AI communicates with her inside her mech suit. However, it’s the AI’s quick wit and sarcasm that confirms that the bot inside Atlas’ mech suit is indeed Smith. Since Smith only deactivated himself on GR-39, it’s likely that the INC was able to retrieve the AI from the old suit and install him into Atlas’ new gear. Ultimately, Smith survives and prepares for new adventures with Atlas.

Read More: Where and When Does Atlas Take Place?