Sword Art Online: Alicization - 2.08 Blood and Life
After watching the previous episode of Sword Art Online: Alicization, I expressed the desire to see more action and plot movement in the following episodes due to that outing being relatively slow. Well, I should've been careful of what I wished for, because Blood and Life offered all the action I wanted and then some. The action takes place after the first wave of battle has ended and sees the plot take a significant leap forward.
The most important part of Blood and Life is how it demonstrates what a monster Gabriel really is. We've already learned that he's capable of cold-blooded murder, but now we see that Gabriel has no problem ordering thousands to their deaths, and it's horrifying how casual he is about it. It's not like previous villains operating in a digital world who don't believe the deaths are permanent (as was the case in the first season). Gabriel knows perfectly well that these are real human souls. This episode has sealed the idea that Gabriel is the worst villain ever encountered in Sword Art Online to date.
Speaking of the Dark Territory forces, it's becoming clear that not all of the various tribes are truly evil. Certain scenes featuring the ogre chieftain and the orcs reveal that if they had their way, these tribes wouldn't be fighting at all; they are only acting this way because Vecta/Gabriel orders them to. Given everything Gabriel has done in this episode, I suspect this will come into play later on.
On Alice and Kirito's side of the story, it looks like Kirito may be one step closer to being revived (an event that will surely happen at some point). It turns out that Alice did, in fact, hear the instructions about the World's End Altar, so she's taking Kirito with her while a new plan is enacted to destroy the enemy forces. Perhaps this is where Asuna will finally join the story, as there is still no sign of her. I was beginning to wonder if the story was ever going to return to this plot point, and I'm glad to see it hasn't been forgotten after all.
I also wanted to talk about Eldrie and his actions. I need to confess I'm not always good at reading body language, even with animated characters, so the idea that Eldrie has been in love with Alice all this time came as something of a surprise to me. However, in hindsight, it does explain a lot of Eldrie's actions, and I thought the ultimate fate of Eldrie's character provided a very touching conclusion to his particular story arc.
Blood and Life is a return to form for the series overall, and hopefully the rest of the season continues in this vein.