Sword Art Online: Alicization 1.23 - Administrator
At the end of Titan of the Sword, the stage seemed set for an epic fight between our heroes and the evil Quinella. In Administrator, there is a fight, but it's nothing like what we were anticipating. In subverting the audience's expectations, this episode keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
Administrator consists of a series of twists that quickly change the situation from four on one to one on one between Quinella and Kirito:
The first twist comes when Quinella drops a bombshell about the origins of the resurrected Sword Golem. It seems she created the golem using the souls of 300 Underworld inhabitants, knowing that Cardinal and the others would never willingly harm human beings. In a further glimpse at the lengths Quinella is willing to go to retain power, the insane pontifex reveals that she plans on creating more golems by sacrificing half of the Underworld's human population, which horrifies everyone.
The second (and most unexpected) twist comes when Cardinal offers to sacrifice herself if Quinella will let Kirito and the others go. It makes sense that Cardinal would do this, but it's also confusing because one of Cardinal's stated goals was to regain control of the Underworld. Now all of a sudden that doesn't seem to matter? It is a well played moment, since Quinella draws out Cardinal's demise in a way that really makes you feel it, but it also doesn't seem to pay attention to earlier events in the story arc.
And then there was the third twist: having deduced that Alice's lost memories were in a crystal on the ceiling, Eugeo asked the dying Cardinal to merge him with his Blue Rose sword and Alice's memories in an effort to damage Quinella, who cannot be damaged by conventional metal weapons. This is quite possibly one of the best sequences in the entire series to date and it's utterly heartbreaking as Kirito doesn't want to lose his best friend. As a result, Eugeo is turned into a living sword that battles with Quinella. And despite some fantastic displays of CGI action, it seems to be for naught since Quinella literally breaks Sword Eugeo in half.
This episode had another callback to the original Sword Art Online story towards the end, when Quinella moves to strike down a grief-stricken Kirito and Alice attempts to sacrifice herself to save him. In a flashback, Kirito remembers how Asuna did the same thing and determines that this time, no one is going to die to save him. At the last moment, he gets in front of Alice and blocks the blow; it felt like a big moment in Kirito's development. He's tired of others dying on his behalf and he's not going to let it happen anymore.
Thus in short order, Cardinal is dead, Eugeo appears to be dead, and Alice is too drained to fight. This leaves Kirito to stand alone against Quinella. With this level of anticipation, surely the epic fight we've all been waiting for is finally about to start. It will be exciting to see how the duel between Kirito and Quinella plays out.