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Salvation comes at a cost. Judge us not by our methods but what we seek to accomplish
~ The Illusive Man to Shepard.
There... Earth. I wish you could see it like I do, Shepard. It's so... perfect.
~ The Illusive Man's last words.
Your team will have to be strong, their resolve unquestionable.
~ Illusive Man

The Illusive Man, real name Jack Harper, is the secondary antagonist of the entire Mass Effect: Original Trilogy. He is the elusive, secretive, and well-informed leader of Cerberus. He has close-cropped silver-grey hair with "steely blue" eyes which appear to be prosthetic. The Illusive Man's real name and his life before Cerberus are both long forgotten. For years, the Illusive Man has been using Cerberus and his immense network of contacts to achieve his goal - that of making humanity ascendant above all other races. He is described as having the best and worst traits of humanity rolled into one man.

He was voiced by Martin Sheen.


The Illusive Man serves as the main protagonist of Mass Effect: Evolution, the main antagonist of Mass Effect: Foundation, Mass Effect: Ascension, Mass Effect: Retribution, Mass Effect: Deception and Mass Effect: Invasion, the unseen overarching antagonist of Mass Effect, a central character and anti-hero in Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect: Redemption, the secondary antagonist of both Mass Effect: Homeworlds and Mass Effect 3: Multiplayer and one of the three main antagonists of Mass Effect 3 (along with Harbinger and the Catalyst).



The Illusive Man was a normal civilian with a job and a family until the discovery of alien life. Not long after the Battle of Shanxi, an e-mail circulated throughout the internet calling for humanity to take its rightful place and assert its power to its new alien contacts. Alliance intelligence could not locate the originator of the e-mail but refer to him as an "illusive man" in press releases to try and dismiss the human-centric diatribe. The name stuck, and the Illusive Man founded Cerberus, a human-centric splinter group. He was responsible for breaking Cerberus away from the Alliance military and building up Cord-Hislop Aerospace as a cover for the organization's shadow operations. His justification is that "if humanity is to survive, sacrifices must be made for the greater good. The Alliance doesn't understand this. Cerberus does." In terms of appearance, the Illusive Man is dressed in an impeccable futuristic-style suit, combined with the casual swagger of a charming billionaire, he also seems to possess unique patterns on his irises. It is currently unknown whether these grant him any additional abilities or are simply aesthetic.

The Illusive Man believes that the political party Terra Firma has a part to play in humanity's ascension and even used an assassination in order to put the right man Charles Saracino in power. The Illusive Man's belief that biotics are the future of humanity led him to order the sabotage and detonation of Eldfell-Ashland Energy starships over human colonies, to ensure biotic children would be born. Somehow likely through unsavory means, the Illusive Man claimed one of these biotic children as a baby and gave her to Paul Grayson to raise as his own daughter. A decade later he planted Cerberus operatives into the Ascension Project to take advantage of the Alliance's more sophisticated biotic research.

He also has an interest in the Quarians and their Migrant Fleet. The Illusive Man does not trust an alien species that effectively has the largest armada of ships in the galaxy. However, he is also greatly impressed by the Quarians' technological expertise, namely their creation of the Geth and their continued survival despite the odds stacked against them. This curiosity has led him to seek the transmission codes for the Migrant Fleet in order to spy on them.

His long-term plans are ultimately unknown, but he has many different projects all factoring into helping humanity achieve its rightful place. Currently, it seems that his main focus is on the Reapers after their discovery, realizing the vast threat they pose on humanity and appears to dedicate all his vast resources to stop them by any means necessary.

Mass Effect 2

Illusive man

After the destruction of the SSV Normandy by the Collectors, the Illusive Man used his contacts and influence to obtain Commander Shepard's badly damaged corpse. Over the course of two years, the Illusive Man devoted a substantial amount of Cerberus' resources into the Lazarus Project, headed by Miranda Lawson, entirely devoted to resurrecting Shepard. However, he refused a suggestion by Miranda to implant a control chip in the Commander's brain, fearing that it may affect Shepard's personality.

When Shepard is finally reconstituted and reawakened after two years, the Illusive Man explains during their first meeting that the fate of the galaxy, but specifically humanity, is just as precarious as it was when Shepard died; the Council is still in denial over the existence of the Reapers and has been ignoring the recent phenomenon across various colonies in the Terminus Systems where entire populations of human colonists have vanished without a trace. The Illusive Man postulates that the disappearance of humans must be tied in some way to the threat of the Reapers, but with the vast amount of ignorance and political red tape that has been hampering the Council and Alliance, only Cerberus can provide Shepard with the resources necessary to confront both threats. Shepard agrees to work with Cerberus for the time being and the Illusive Man provides Shepard with the newly built Normandy SR-2 and a full crew which includes Cerberus operatives Miranda Lawson and Jacob Taylor, along with former SSV Normandy crew members, Jeff "Joker" Moreau and Doctor Chakwas to work with Shepard.

After Shepard and the new team investigate Freedom's Progress, the latest site of human disappearances, they obtain evidence that the Collectors were responsible and are abducting entire human colonies for unknown reasons. The Illusive Man admits that even he has limited knowledge of the enigmatic species, and further investigation of the Collectors' activities will require a team of combat and scientific specialists from across the galaxy. The Illusive Man then provides Shepard a list of dossiers for the Commander to recruit into the team.

Unwilling to wait until another human colony is attacked, the Illusive Man leaked information of the Alliance setting up defense turrets and the location of Shepard's fellow squad member from Mass Effect at Horizon. Shepard's timely arrival prevented the Collectors from taking the entire colony. This confirms the Illusive Man's suspicions that the Collectors are very focused on taking Shepard out.

Eventually, the Illusive Man directs Shepard to the Collector Cruiser that took out the original Normandy, supposedly disabled by a turian patrol. The Illusive Man intentionally allows Shepard to walk into a trap, to fool the Collectors into thinking that they have the upper hand, in order to gain information on how to pass through the Omega 4 Relay; Shepard was not happy at the apparent betrayal but the Illusive Man tells Shepard that he trust the Commander could escape safely should any danger happen. After learning that a Reaper IFF is required for safe passage through the relay, the Illusive Man instructs Shepard to investigate a derelict Reaper, which was damaged from an ancient mass accelerator weapon — after a Cerberus team researching it had gone missing.

Near the end of the suicide mission at the Collector base, instead of letting Shepard rig and detonate the base, the Illusive Man suggests using a radiation pulse to wipe out all living Collectors and leave the base intact in order to use the base's technology against the Reapers. If Shepard destroys the base, the Illusive Man is furious with the Commander's idealism saying he knew Shepard would "choke on the hard decisions" He also asserts that the technology could have possibly advanced humanity's position against anything, and to reason that Cerberus is humanity. He is rebuffed by Shepard, who wasn't looking for approval and then chooses to leave Cerberus. The Illusive Man tries to dissuade the Commander, citing that it is because of him that Shepard is alive. Alternatively, if Shepard accepts the Illusive Man's suggestion and kills only the Collectors, he considers it an excellent opportunity to advance the position of humanity. Shepard can either warn the Illusive Man about using the Collector technology for anything else other than fighting the Reapers or to agree with his idea of advancing humanity using the technology. At the end of this meeting, the Illusive Man smiles deviously while looking at a hologram of his newly acquired prize: the Collector base.

If Shepard and his squad all died potentially except one then the illusive man will ask joker how his ship is and they discuss the tragedy of Shepard’s death in which the illusive man's actually regrets and the illusive man will either be happy or disappointed about Shepard’s decision on the fate of the collector base and proceeds to tell joker he can return the Normandy to port as their mission is over and when joker leaves illusive man either sits down in his chair and has a cigarette and looks at the sun projection in his base (Collector Base Destroyed) or he sits and has a cigarette and proceeds to watch a projection of his retrieval team heading towards the collector base to acquire their technologies and he lets off a smile.

Since this route is considered non-canon and Shepard’s dead it’s unknown exactly what happens to the illusive man after this it’s likely he was indoctrinated then was successful in assassinating the councilors and stealing the Prothean VI later he implants himself with the reaper technology and since without Shepard alive it’s likely the illusive man is able to help the reapers control the citadel and with the reapers victory ensured its likely the illusive man and the remaining Cerberus are enslaved and eventually turned into monsters like the collectors and become agents for the reapers eventually leading into the next cycle.

Mass Effect 3

(If Shepard survives the suicide mission) In 2186, the Illusive Man dedicates himself to the goal of finding a way to exert control over the Reapers. To accomplish this, he plans to use information about a Prothean superweapon, which is later dubbed the Crucible by the Alliance fleet, discovered on Mars, with the intent of using that information to devise a way to dominate the Reapers and use their advanced technology for humanity's benefit. His methods are far more direct than those he has used in the past: He orders direct attacks on the other factions in the galaxy, attempts to stop Shepard from recovering a fertile Krogan female on Sur'Kesh as well trying to instigate a war between the turians and krogan by detonating a bomb on Tuchanka, orders an attack on the Citadel itself and the assassination of the Council in order to assist human Councilor Donnel Udina in taking control which fails after Udina's is killed during the attack. The Illusive man also backs a project on the human colony of Horizon known as Sanctuary led by Cerberus scientist Henry Lawson to study Reaper Indoctrination as well as Husks in an attempt to find a way to control the Reapers.

During the Reaper invasion of the Asari world, Thessia, Shepard discovers a hidden Prothean Beacon containing crucial information to finishing the Crucible. The Illusive Man, having learned about the beacon through the Mars archives, appears via hologram and attempts to sway Shepard into realizing the benefits of controlling the Reapers rather than destroying them. He points out that if the Reapers wanted to destroy all organic life, they could have done so already; he asserts that the Reapers are instead interested in exerting control over organics. It is clear to Shepard that the Illusive Man has been indoctrinated, and with neither side being able to convince the other, the Illusive Man orders his right-hand man and top assassin Kai Leng to take the Prothean VI Vendetta.

Ultimately, when Shepard was able to track down Cerberus Headquarters, the Illusive Man was absent for the Alliance assault. Video logs found on the station show that the Illusive Man allowed himself to be implanted with Reaper-derived nanotechnology. He later appears before Shepard as a hologram and tells Shepard that Cerberus will never be destroyed, claiming it to be an idea, not just an organization before ordering Kai Leng to attack Shepard and his squad which results in Leng's death at the hands of Shepard themselves.

Shepard finds the Illusive Man onboard the Citadel orbiting Earth, showing signs of Reaper modifications across his face. Using these upgrades, the Illusive Man immobilizes and controls the motor functions of both Shepard and Anderson. He then forces Shepard to shoot Anderson in the gut to prove his powers. Despite Shepard asking him to let them stop the Reapers, the Illusive Man refuses to allow the Commander to undo his plans of controlling the Reapers. However, when Shepard pleads with the Illusive Man that he is under the Reapers' control and tells him to resist them, the Illusive Man resists enough to see the truth in Shepard's words and after realizing his ultimate plans to protect humanity were undone, and his nemesis Shepard was right he simply tells Shepard that he "tried" before fatally shooting himself in the head. On the other hand, if Shepard infuriated the Illusive Man of his supposed failures, he angrily resents that notion and attempts to shoot Shepard but is shot first by the Commander instead. With his last breath, the Illusive Man looks through the Citadel arms and remarks how beautiful Earth is, wishing Shepard could see it as he did before dying.

When Shepard comes face-to-face with the Catalyst, manifesting as the young boy who was killed at the beginning of the game, he explains that the Illusive Man was correct in believing that it was possible to take control of the Reapers; however, he would never have been able to do this himself, as the Reapers were already controlling him. His final appearance is in the final decision at the Crucible, where he appears in a vision as the embodiment of the "Control" option.


The Illusive Man is someone who believes that the ends always justify the means. As such he is pragmatic and utterly ruthless in his attempt to achieve his and Cerberus' goals, even willing to perform brutal experiments on, not just aliens, but other humans as well. He is also incredibly stubborn and dogmatic, always convinced that he's right and never considering for a second that there's anything wrong with his methods. As such, he is disgusted by Paragon-Shepard's decision to destroy the Collector Base, calling him/her a naïve idealist who chokes on the hard decisions.

Despite his ruthlessness, the Illusive Man is also charming and very charismatic, which can put even the most careful and wary people off guard. Even Aria T'Loak, the crime boss of Omega, could never tell if he was lying or not, noting that he was the only person ever to successfully do so.

The Illusive Man is extremely intelligent and calculating. He always attempts to make sure he has all of the bases covered. This, mixed with his charm and strong charisma, makes him a master manipulator. This can most clearly be seen with how he manipulated Shepard to work with him in Mass Effect 2, by leaking that Shepard was with Cerberus beforehand thus turning any other political support and allies from Shepard, as well as putting the most naïve and sympathetic members of Cerberus on Shepard's crew.

The Illusive Man always tries to not underestimate his enemies and greatly admires and respects those he feels deserve his respect. He makes it clear throughout Mass Effect 3, that despite seeing him/her as his enemy, he has nothing but the utmost respect for Shepard and warns his subordinates, particularly Kai Leng, to show Shepard the same respect as well. He also truly believes that what he is doing will make the galaxy a better place for humanity. If convinced he is indoctrinated, he will remorsefully tell Shepard that he tried his best, before killing himself. If he is shot, he will take one last look at Earth before his death, wishing that Shepard could see Earth as he does: beautiful and perfect.


  • Unsurprisingly, the Illusive Man bears a strong physical resemblance to his voice actor Martin Sheen (as some other characters in the game resemble their voice actors as well).
  • Many characters outside Cerberus say not to trust the Illusive Man; humorously, his voice actor Martin Sheen says in the Mass Effect 2 Documentary DVD that he would not trust the Illusive Man.
  • The Illusive Man's real name "Jack Harper" was first revealed in the comic book mini-series Mass Effect: Evolution.
  • Martin Sheen would suck on a pen during recordings to simulate the smoking of a cigarette, as he himself does not smoke.

External Links


           Masseffect logo.png Villains

Reapers and Servants
Sovereign | Harbinger | Human-Reaper Larvae | Saren Arterius | Matriarch Benezia | Collector General | Husks | Collectors

Illusive Man | Renegade Commander Shepard | Kai Leng | Oleg Petrovsky | Henry Lawson | Maya Brooks | Gavin Archer

Corrupt Party Members
Jack | Morinth

Villainous Organizations and Species
CAT6 | Geth | The Citadel Council | The Blood Pack | The Blue Suns | The Eclipse | The Archon

Mercenaries and other Criminals
Aria T'Loak | Captain Enyala | Clone | Doctor Saleon | Garm | Golo'Mekk vas Usela | Harkin | Jaroth | Jedore | Ka'hairal Balak | Nassana Dantius | Shadow Broker | Tarak | Tela Vasir | Vido Santiago | Warden Kuril

Other Villains
The Catalyst | Admiral Daro'Xen | Admiral Han'Gerrel vas Neema | Clan Chief Weyrloc Guld | Dalatrass Linron | Gatatog Uvenk | Maelon Heplorn | Ronald Taylor | Thorian | Urdnot Wreav