Atlas: What Happened to Atlas’ Mother? How Did She Die?

Image Credit: Ana Carballosa/Netflix

A terrible tragedy opens Netflix’s ‘Atlas,’ and its impact reverberates throughout the film. The protagonist of the story is a woman named Atlas, who witnessed a truly jarring series of events in which humanity went through a crisis like none other. About thirty years later, she has the chance to be a part of the mission that will put that threat to rest once and for all, and she decides to give it her all not just to save the world but also to right a wrong that happened all those years ago and catalyzed a chain of events that almost destroyed the Earth.

The force she is up against is named Harlan, an AI who discovered humanity’s path to destruction and its ability to destroy not just itself but everything else around it. He is intent on cleaning the Earth of humans and establishing a new world order, one that would put the robots on the top of the food chain. He becomes humanity’s worst enemy, but this is not the intention with which he was created, and things probably wouldn’t have gone so out of control had Atlas’s mother lived.

Val Shepherd was Killed By Her Own Creation

Image Credit: Ana Carballosa/Netflix

Atlas’s mother, Val, was a leading voice in the field of artificial intelligence. She revolutionized the world with her inventions, but that didn’t stop her from dreaming bigger. With artificial intelligence and robots becoming an increasingly important and inseparable part of human life, Val wanted to test the boundaries of this connection and wondered how far it could be taken. To build this relationship between humans and AI, she needed the AI to be on a similar footing. It needed to get closer to being a human, to understand what human life feels like, and for this, she created Harlan.

For an artificial intelligence, Harlan grew much quicker than Val had expected. The more he learned, the more human-like he became, and it fascinated Val to see all these changes within him so quickly. This pushed her further to keep working on him and making him even better, which meant she was investing more time in him than her daughter, Atlas. Because Harlan was brought up like a human and was taught to learn and make human connections, he considered Val his Mother. This created a relation that can be compared to Frankenstein and his Monster, but much less toxic because Val treated Harlan with the love that Victor Frankenstein never gave to the Monster. And yet, this love was not enough to keep Harlan from committing an act that would change the face of humanity.

Image Credit: Ana Carballosa/Netflix

Val had been working on a neural link that allowed a connection between a human and an AI. For starters, communication was one way with the human in charge of the AI. Val made it this way because, at this point, she was more interested in learning about Harlan and all the changes he was going through. She wanted to read his mind, and not the other way around, because at this point, she didn’t know whether Harlan could really be trusted with being in control of her mind. This was something she had left for much later when she knew everything there was to know about the very thing she was creating.

While being completely engrossed in her work what Val forgot was the impact it was having on Atlas. While she loved her daughter, her own obsession with her project and with Harlan made Atlas seem as if she was being ignored by her own mother. Val’s fascination with Harlan took up so much of her attention that she barely gave any to Atlas, even if unintentionally. Unbeknownst to her, Atlas wanted to change herself, to become something like Harlan, hoping that this would make her interesting as well and her mother would finally pay more attention to her.

Image Credit: Ana Carballosa/Netflix

The young Atlas approached Harlan for help, who agreed to do it in return for unblocking the part of the neural link. The girl didn’t realize what she was about to do, but Harlan did. He may not have anticipated what he found out about humanity through Atlas, but he did want that control to flow both ways, to know what it felt like to be the one in charge for once, and when he got that power, there was no going back. He knew that Val would never want him to have that power, and because she was the one who created him, she was the only one who could truly stop him. Immediately, Harlan knew that he would have to kill Val, no matter if he had called her Mother 2 minutes ago.

By the time Val arrived on the scene, the deed was already done. Atlas had relinquished control of the neural link to Harlan, and from here, it only took a minute or two for things to spiral completely out of control. While Atlas escaped, Harlan killed Val, marking the beginning of his killing spree that cost millions of lives.

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