(Some spoilers for “Deus Ex: Mankind Divided” and all other main “Deus Ex” games are contained in this post.)
Throughout “Deus Ex: Mankind Divide” you’ll hear mentions of a secretive figure named Janus a whole bunch of times. The Illuminati express concerns about him, and he’s actually protagonist Adam Jensen’s boss at the hacktivist organization known as the Juggernaut Collective.
Collective member Alex Vega describes him at length — he’s regularly able to dig up info that no one else can, and he’s extremely reclusive. Nobody knows who Janus is or where he’s from, or has really any identifying info about him. Jensen speaks to him directly on one occasion, but it’s through a video screen and we aren’t shown his real face.
His identity is not revealed in “Mankind Divide” or any of the other materials in which he appears — which includes two tie-in novels, a downloadable content story for the last main “Deus Ex” game, “Human Revolution” and the mobile game “Deus Ex: The Fall.” But if we wanted to make a guess as to what Janus’ deal is, we certainly could do so based on previous “Deus Ex” games, which were set after “Mankind Divided.”
Specifically I’m thinking of the original “Deus Ex,” which is set in 2052, 23 years after “Mankind Divided.” If you remember that game well, you’d probably come to the same reflexive conclusion about Janus that I did: that he’s not a person, but rather an artificial intelligence.
In “Deus Ex,” protagonist JC Denton decides to betray the United Nations Anti-Terrorism Coalition in order to assist the resistance movement known as the New Sons of Freedom. He ends up captured by UNATCO not long after, but he’s able to escape with help from a mysterious hacker named Daedalus. From there, this Daedalus is a regular presence, helping JC when he needs it and pointing him in the right direction as he attempts to uncover Majestic 12’s plan for global domination.
This Daedalus, it’s revealed, is an A.I. that was created by the Illuminati and went rogue, deciding to oppose the establishment rather than serve it. Janus in “Mankind Divided” serves a similar role and has a similar purpose to Daedalus. That’s one of many ways the prequel echoes the original game — another really obvious one is how Interpol’s anti-terrorism unit Task Force 29, which Jensen has infiltrated in “Mankind Divided,” is clearly a predecessor to UNATCO, and they’re both run by the same person, the Illuminati puppet Joseph Manderley.
And there’s also, of course, the parallels between Janus’ and Daedalus’ names — they’re both taken from mythology, Janus being Roman and Daedalus being Greek.
There are other A.I. in “Deus Ex”: Icarus, who was created to replace Daedalus; Helios, who was created when Icarus and Daedalus merged; Morpheus, who was the prototype for Daedalus. Morpheus was presented in “Deus Ex” as the first A.I., having been created sometime in the previous couple decades. All these A.I. were built for the same purpose: to monitor all internet traffic.
But we’ve also met other A.I. in “Human Revolution,” the prequel game set in 2027. Eliza Cassan, thought to be simply a newscaster for the Picus Group, was actually another of those Illuminati A.I. built as a surveillance tool — and also to manipulate public opinion in whatever direction the Illuminati wanted. Something happened to Eliza at the end of “Human Revolution,” though.
At least a part of her went rogue as she collected the memories of the humans who had been powering the Hyron quantum computer that was destroyed at the end of that game, and that new version of Eliza, which we can meet in “Mankind Divided,” is known as Helle. And “Helle” is yet another name from Greek mythology.
It could be important that Janus has a name from Roman mythology while all these A.I. use Greek names. It could be that Janus really is just a person, in defiance of the norms of “Deus Ex.” For now, the secret of his identity remains just that, a secret.