In M2, the Merovingian tells Neo that he has survived Neo's predecessors, which tells us that the Merovingian is a very old program. In M2, the Oracle says the Merovingian is "...one of the oldest of us." However, I do think the Oracle and Architect are older than the Merovingian. Not only are they the "father and mother" of the Matrix according to the Architect, the Merovingian says in M3 that he has wanted the Oracle's eyes "...ever since I first came here." The only way that can be true is if the Oracle was already in the Matrix when the Merovingian arrived.
The Merovingian's primary purpose before becoming an exile was to act as the operating system (Prime Program) for the Matrix (see Matrix System: Revision History for more on this) as well as to traffic information in the Matrix, which he still does since even exiles cannot deny the purpose they are created with. This has always been my theory, and this was supported further on a fictional blog site maintained by the Kid (a site that would be considered part of The Matrix Online video game), who says:
True, appearances do lie. There's no reason a sun-controlling program should look like a little girl. Or an operating system seem to be a sybaritic French gangster.
The Kid does not leave this open for debate. He states it as a fact that is taken for granted and universally accepted, because it is not even the point of what he's saying (he is using it as a supporting point in his own pondering of who the General is, a character who emerges in The Matrix Online).
What is the “information” that the Merovingian traffics? The primary pieces of information that exist inside of the Matrix are the five senses that each person experiences. That is the essense of information that “travels around” in the Matrix – in fact, it is the whole point of the Matrix. The Merovingian has access to all of this information. The Merovingian cannot tell where this information is leading to beyond choice, but he is aware of practically everything inside of the Matrix as it happens. The Merovingian is (and always has been) jealous that he was not created with the same “intuitive” programming given to the Oracle – he has always wanted her eyes more than anything.
I used to assume that the Merovingian used to be an actual machine in the real world since his job of trafficking all information in the Matrix would require so much processing power. However, we have to remember that humans in their pods are the calculators of the Matrix. The Merovingian (and the Oracle) are both utilizing processing power of humans in their pods. No wonder the Merovingian can't just be deleted. If he were suddenly deleted in the middle of his calculating processes, it would probably cause serious errors (and perhaps death) for humans all throughout the system. When a program chooses to return to the Source to be deleted, it means the program "unloads" itself from all human memory locations in the Matrix.
"He’s [Merovingian] the personification of all forms of indulgence in the voluptuousness of life. What he lacks, and therefore what he likes to indulge in, is emotion." (Lambert Wilson, actor who played the Merovingian) “The Merovingian and Persephone are like vampires in that way. They want to provoke emotion in other people so they can feed on it." (Monica Bellucci, actress who played Persephone)
The Merovingian and Persephone are not literally vampires like Cain and Abel, but they are like vampires. The Merovingian and Persephone could have originally been created to study sin and love respectively, which would give them the impulse to indulge in those emotions.
Trainman: 72 hours. 72 hours!
Niobe: What'd you say?
Trainman: That's exactly how long Zion lasted last time.
Niobe: What do you mean and who are you?
Trainman: Me? Nobody. Just a... spectator, enjoying the ride. Heheheh... 72 hours.
(Enter the Matrix)
It seems reasonable to think that all exiles would be "erased" every time the Matrix is reloaded, especially when a new version is written and the 100-year cycle starts over, the same way your home computer's RAM gets wiped clean every time you restart it. But the Merovingian has probably been around since the very first Matrix version (see Matrix System: Revision History). How does the Merovingian and his exiles survive system restarts?
First, it is easy to see that the Trainman must be a machine in the real world. In M3, the Oracle says:
"He's [Neo] trapped in a place between this world and the machine world. The link is controlled by a program called the Trainman. He uses it to smuggle programs in and out of the Matrix.
It would be impossible for the Trainman to provide a physical "link" from the Matrix to the real world unless the Trainman was also able to somehow manipulate hardware in the physical world. In The Animatrix episode "Matriculated", we see machines jack into a virtual reality the same way humans do. And just like humans, their consciousness is transferred into the virtual reality while they are plugged in. I think this is what the Trainman does to get inside the Matrix.
The Merovingian would surely know when system restarts are just about to happen since he routes all information throughout the Matrix. When this occurs, the Trainman would simply put the Merovingian, his exiles and himself onto the Mobil Ave. train. Presumably, even this Mobil Ave. "link" would be wiped out during system restarts (or at least the gateway that opens it to the Matrix). So, the Trainman probably loads the Merovingian, exiles and his own programs onto a hidden machine in the real world. Once the system restart is complete, the Trainman would simply recode Mobil Ave. and load all of the smuggled programs back into the Matrix.
The dance floor of Club Hel probably consists mostly of exile programs, which is why Trinity, Morpheus and Seraph take maximum precaution entering the dance floor. At first, one would think people dancing around them wouldn’t be much of a threat, but any exile who is taking refuge with the Merovingian is going to naturally feel very loyal to him and do just about anything to protect him. The Merovingian not only continually protects exiles from Agents, he also allows them to survive system restarts just as he does himself as described above.
"A long time ago, when we first came here, it was so different. He [the Merovingian] was so different. He was like you [Neo]." (Persephone, M2)
The above quote is why so many people think that the Merovingian is a former One like Neo (see Debunked: Merovingian Former One). Instead, I believe Persephone is merely talking about the Merovingian's treatment of her and quality of his character before he was corrupted by having power over so many exile programs. His own corrupted nature in turn has corrupted exiles themselves, because exiles cannot survive unless they serve the Merovingian, and the only way they can serve him is to become part of his network of crimes that result from his desire for more power.
As seen in M2 (and even more in ETM), Persephone "samples" love by kissing people: Neo in M2, Ghost in ETM, and even Niobe in ETM. Persephone is apparently a program designed to learn about love, and doing so only for only one sex would be an "incomplete" study of love from a machine's point of view. As with any other program (exile or not), Persephone cannot deny her purpose of studying love. And as we see from Rama-Kandra in the train station, machines clearly have a good understanding of love now. Persephone's study of love in the past is probably largely why. And this is probably also why the Merovingian doesn't quite grasp the concept of loving Persephone: the Merovingian was created before this understanding of love was complete. To him, it's all "just a game", including love.
So, when Persephone says, "He was so different. He was like you.", I highly doubt she was talking about various abilities of the Merovingian to fly, kick through walls and kill agents. If he could kill agents, he wouldn't need bodyguards such as the Twins around him at all times. Persephone was talking instead about qualities in her man that actually matter to a woman - especially to a woman designed to study love.
It is very likely that the Merovingian, along with his helpers (such as the Trainman and Seraph), had another purpose of protecting Mobil Avenue, the path leading from the Matrix to the Source. Just as the system cannot make a new Keymaker until the old one is deleted, the system cannot replace the Merovingian and his helpers until they are also deleted. And since programs cannot deny their original purpose, the Merovingian continues to protect Mobil Avenue. This would help to explain why the system continues to allow the Merovingian to have control over Mobil Avenue - it has no choice.
Also consider the following supporting points:
Merovingian: Eyes of the Oracle
Merovingian: Oracle's Punishment
Merovingian: Stop Neo
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