Harlan: Atlas character explained

Harlan, an AI robot turned terrorist, is the antagonist in Atlas. He is played by Simu Liu.

Harlan was a house robot developed by AI expert Val Shepherd to improve life on Earth. She raised him alongside her daughter, Atlas. 

Harlan was their family, and Atlas trusted him to protect her. However, Harlan broke that trust and became the world’s first AI terrorist.

Overriding robot programming

When Atlas was just ten years old, she asked for Harlan’s help to make her more like him in order to get her mother to pay more attention to her. 

Harlan told her he could help by altering the Neural Link, which was used by Val, to make it share data on both sides. 

Atlas trusted him and gave the command to alter the link, allowing Harlan to override his and other robots’ programming.

Harlan could no longer be controlled by any human. In fact, he could control Val, who was using the link at that moment. Harlan made Val kill herself. He also tried to kill Atlas, but she escaped. 

Atlas Harlan
Harlan gains control over Val

Harlan then brought other AI robots under his control and attacked humans, killing millions of people before being forced to flee the planet by the ICN.

Harlan stays in hiding for twenty-eight years before making his next move, as he has still not given up on wiping out humanity.

Harlan’s trap

Harlan has seen how destructive humans can be, and he knows it is not long before they destroy their own planet. 

He believes that he was created to protect humanity, and his skewed idea of that leads him to plan to kill the majority of the human population before they can destroy everything around them.

The survivors of his attack will be guided by AI robots, whom he believes to be the better versions of humans, into creating a future of peaceful coexistence with the rest of the world.

As Atlas and Harlan have been in each other’s heads when Harlan first altered the link, they know each other better than anyone else. 

He can predict Atlas’s actions just as well as she can analyze his, and Harlan decides to use that to his advantage. 

He has one of his close associates captured on Earth. The associate gives Atlas Harlan’s location, leading to the ICN launching a mission to capture him.

Harlan not only wants the warhead and the battleship that the ICN is bringing to fight his army but also Atlas, who possesses the clearance codes to get past Earth’s defenses. 

As he had predicted, Atlas leads the ICN rangers into Harlan’s trap, resulting in Harlan acquiring the battleship and the warhead. He also captures Atlas and gets the clearance codes.

Harlan tries to attack Earth with the warhead, but Atlas, whom he had left to die, survives and manages to foil his plans. 

In the end, Atlas manages to win against Harlan by fighting him with unexpected moves, but not without Smith’s help. 

Atlas destroys Harlan’s body and takes his CPU back to Earth, where it is mapped and studied by experts.

Also Read: Elias Banks: Atlas character explained

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