Sword Art Online: Alicization - 1.10 Taboo Index
After watching Nobleman's Responsibilities I suspected that a climactic confrontation of some kind was close at hand. Raios and Humbert had spent several episodes getting under Kirito and Eugeo's skin, and I predicted last week that their comeuppance would likely be coming. Well, Taboo Index proved me right, but in a way that was thoroughly shocking. This is by far the most graphic episode in the Sword Art Online story to date, in more ways than one.
The bulk of the episode revolves around a final confrontation between Eugeo, Kirito and the pair of arrogant nobles. After learning that their pages have disappeared after leaving to confront Humbert and Raios, Eugeo storms to the nobles' dorm room and finds the pages tied up in their chambers.
In many ways this episode is a continuation of themes explored in the previous episode: Raios and Humbert firmly believe that their status as nobles allows them to treat less privileged students however they choose (even though such actions are technically reprehensible and very immoral). According to a strict interpretation of the Taboo Index, the pair can "punish" female students as they see fit and nobody can touch them because they're technically not breaking the rules. It's a disgusting mode of behavior and Raios and Humbert are fully revealed as monsters during this scene.
Part of what makes this episode so shocking is that, having not seen it for several episodes, I'd actually forgotten that characters bleed in the Underworld instead of shedding pixels. And so when Eugeo (and later Kirito) swing their swords at Raios and Humbert...the results are quite gruesome (without going into too much detail Humbert loses an arm while Raios loses his hands). I shouldn't be surprised that Sword Art Online can swing in this direction; technically we've seen much worse than this, but the graphic nature was disguised with pixels and other digital effects. I'm curious to see if the series will go to even greater extremes than this.
In stopping the nobles from assaulting the younger students, several interesting things happen in a short period of time: first of all, the same "System Alert" message appears in Eugeo's eye that appeared in the first episode when Alice was taken away. It seems that by making the decision to save the students even though that means breaking the Taboo Index, Eugeo has come to the attention of...somebody. Second, after Raios is mortally wounded by Kirito, he literally starts glitching (his body digitally flickers). It's not clear why, but it seems the noble can't grasp that he is dying (or something of that sort). It's one of the first definite reminders that these characters live in a digital world. I was briefly surprised that the others didn't comment further upon this, but given everything that had happened to them, it was probably the last thing on their minds.
The end of the episode had one last surprise to deliver: because they both broke the Taboo Index, Kirito and Eugeo are being taken away from Swordcraft Academy by an Integrity Knight (to what end is not revealed). In a stunning twist, it's revealed that their escort is none other then...Alice! Far from needing to be rescued as Eugeo feared, Alice introduces herself as an Integrity Knight high up in the pecking order. My immediate question for the next episode is: does Alice remember Eugeo? And if she doesn't, why is that? Furthermore, where are Kirito and Eugeo going? Hopefully the next episode, Central Cathedral, will answer these questions.