Sword Art Online: Alicization - 1.22 Titan of the Sword
What a difference a week makes! While The 32nd Knight was one of the weakest episodes in the series, this week's episode, Titan of the Sword, is one of the best. Events are definitely coming to a head and this episode demonstrated that beautifully.
But the episode did have one big disappointing factor; the promised battle between Chudelkin and our heroes never really happened. Perhaps as a way of making up for his gross comments in the previous episode, Chudelkin is summarily dispatched by Kirito, in bloody fashion, within the first five minutes of the episode. This scene also demonstrated how sociopathic Quinella really is; despite being one of her top lieutenants, the pontifex disposes of Chudelkin's body as if it was nothing but trash.
A lot happens in this episode, but the most important is the reveal that Kirito comes from "the other side" (that is to say, the real world). Up until now, Kirito had passed himself off as a member of the Underworld with amnesia. But once Quinella confronted Kirito with the truth, he didn't deny it. Of particular note was Eugeo's surprised reaction to this revelation. I wouldn't be surprised if this comes up later.
Beyond that, the biggest moment by far comes when Kirito verbally confronts Quinella with the upcoming consequences of her actions. He attempts to back the rogue pontifex down by reminding her that the Underworld can be deleted at the push of a button, something that is likely to happen if Quinella persists in her actions. However, not only was the pontifex unfazed by Kirito's words, she claimed to have found a way around this possibility, which is frightening when you remember this is only an artificial intelligence that lives in a computer. The thought of Quinella existing in the real world is terrifying.
Quinella's "solution" to any upcoming consequences comes in the form of a "Sword Golem," a monstrous creature made up of thirty different weapons. I'd assumed that the different weapons chained to the wall of Quinella's chamber were "divine weapons" to be distributed to future Integrity Knights. But in truth, these were all components of the golem. In another callback to the original Sword Art Online, the Sword Golem loosely resembles the Skull Reaper that Kirito and our original heroes fought at the end of the Aincrad arc.
For a moment, it appeared the show was going to kill off Kirito and have him wake up in the real world, because in short order the Golem fatally wounds Alice and Kirito. However, in a moment that is pure deus ex machina, Cardinal - the A.I. that started Kirito and Eugeo on this journey through the Cathedral in the first place - manages to emerge and join our heroes. Normally I'm against moments like this because in terms of plot they don't make sense. But in this case I have to make an exception because without Cardinal's assistance the battle against Quinella would have been over before it began. However, it is slightly concerning that the Sword Golem was seemingly annihilated in a single stroke by Cardinal. I find myself hoping that Quinella "resurrects" the creature, because otherwise what was the point of introducing it if it was only going to be destroyed after five minutes?
Unless something unexpected happens, the stage has been set for the fight against Quinella. With Cardinal's help, our heroes have a fighting chance. But the stakes are still high; if Cardinal regains control, she wants to shut the Underworld down entirely, something Eugeo and Alice do not know about. Whatever happens, this fight has the potential to be epic, quite possibly the biggest fight Kirito has ever been in.