Sword Art Online: Alicization - 2.12 Ray of Light
With the arrival of Ray of Light, the current season of Sword Art Online: Alicization has come to an end. And while I was initially disappointed that the final battle has been delayed until the spring, the implications of certain events in this episode are more than enough to make up for it.
This episode picks up where the last episode left off, with thousands of gamers logging in to the Underworld, believing this to be a beta test for a game. I'm not sure how to feel about Asuna and three Integrity Knights being able to wipe out several thousand players in a matter of moments just after their arrival, but it has been mentioned before that Asuna's character has god-level powers, so it's not an episode-breaking issue.
The first really interesting thing that happens involves Iskahn, the head of the Pugilist's Guild. Being stranded on one side of a canyon from a portion of his troops, Iskahn is furious to see these new warriors slaughtering his people...and then his right eye starts glowing red, just like Alice and Eugeo's last season. Iskahn appears to be the first Dark Territory character to break the Seal of the Right Eye, a mechanism that's meant to control Underworld inhabitants and keep them obedient to the system. Iskahn breaking the Seal on his own has potentially huge ramifications. We know that all of the Underworld inhabitants are built from human souls. With that in mind...is it possible that all of them have the potential to do as Alice did and break free of the system, achieving true AI status? Watching Iskahn's actions in this episode, I really believe it's possible. Breaking the Seal could potentially become a trend when the next season arrives.
One event that didn't surprise me because it was plainly coming was the final break between Gabriel/Vecta and his troops. The audience knows, of course, that Gabriel is only using these troops to get to Alice. But the Dark Territory forces believe he's their rightful Emperor, so when Iskahn sees Vecta flying away...Gabriel had better hope that the Dark Territory forces don't catch up to him. It was only a matter of time before Gabriel's treatment of the Dark Territory forces caused a permanent break, and it will create all kinds of intrigue for next season.
There were two final moments of interest that came right at the end of the episode. The first is that Sinon has now joined Asuna and Kirito in the Underworld in a form that appears to be extremely powerful. This is one point in the storytelling that is a little weak, the fact that Sinon and the rest of Kirito's friends all have characters that rank as "extremely powerful" in the Underworld, but since it adds to the excitement of the moment, I'm inclined to overlook it. I was hoping to see the rest of Kirito's friends arrive as well, but that will seemingly have to wait until the spring.
The other moment of interest has to do with Vassago, Gabriel's cohort who was last seen tumbling into a bottomless pit when Asuna arrived. He's last seen planning to re-enter the Underworld with a "special" form, having deduced from Asuna's arrival that "he" must be there as well. I can only assume that Vassago is referring to Kirito. If the glint in Vassago's eyes was anything to go by, Kirito, Asuna, and Sinon all need to watch out when Sword Art Online: Alicization returns.
This season really flew by, and Ray of Light did a good job of building excitement for the ultimate battle that is set to take place in a few month's time. It will be really interesting to see what happens when Asuna, Sinon, and the others catch up to Gabriel and Alice.