Sword Art Online: Alicization - 2.09 Sword and Fist
For the most part, Sword and Fist is a fairly standard episode in Sword Art Online: Alicization. Another Integrity Knight is introduced along with their backstory and more Dark Territory forces are encountered; all very little that we haven't seen before. However, the last three minutes of this episode immediately jumped out to me and therefore they'll be discussed first.
At long last, Asuna has come to the Underworld in the guise of Stacia, goddess of creation. And what an entrance she makes! If you're going to introduce a character by suddenly dropping them into the action, then this is how it's done. It was implied many episodes earlier that Asuna would be entering the Underworld with a powerful character, but I had no idea she would be capable of anything like this. She literally wipes out an attacking force singlehandedly (and may or may not have killed off a relatively important character, though his ultimate fate remains to be seen). If Asuna retains these powers for the duration of her time in the Underworld, then her appearance in the story is an absolute game-changer.
Outside of the exciting finish, this week's story was fairly standard. Sheyta, the Integrity Knight introduced in this episode, has the typical messed-up backstory including another cameo appearance by Administrator. Part of Sheyta's story is confusing though, and I'm not sure if it's a storytelling issue or a translation issue (with the subtitles). At first, Administrator explains that Sheyta is "cursed" with a murderous impulse, so she gives her a weapon that will help her sate that desire. But later, during a battle scene, Alice mentions that she senses no such impulse or intent from Sheyta. It feels like they're trying to make a point about the character, but if that's the case, the point was too muddled to make sense to me.
There was yet a further example of how depraved Gabriel and his ally are. When Gabriel sends him to attack the human forces, he explicitly mentions the term "player-killing" (PK'ing), which is a video game term referring to when players kill other players in-game. After everything they've seen, these two still think of the Underworld as just another game to conquer, either ignoring or not caring that these are real lives they're playing with. It makes these two all the more horrifying, and hopefully they will be suitably punished by the end of this story.
With Asuna's arrival on the scene, it seems all but certain that Kirito's return to the story is imminent. This arrival will likely shift the balance of power firmly on the side of Alice and the other humans, and surely there will be other ramifications as the story continues.