The stake of the underworld is laid out in another exposition-heavy episode…
While it has a different title, Ruler And Mediator is basically The Sage of the Library Part two, as the plot directly continues on from that episode, with Cardinal filling Kirito in on the situation with Quinella taking control of the Underworld. To my delight, one of my questions from last week were answered, that is: why has Rath not done anything about Quinella? Cardinal believes she knows the answer: Rath (which she views as a god) doesn’t want the inhabitants of the Underworld to be happy so they’re allowing this situation to persist. This makes perfect sense when you remember that the Underworld inhabitants are being developed to fight as part of the military. There’s no need for the A.I.s to be happy when they need to be used to suffering.
This episode is another large information dump that was clearly designed to orient the viewer as to what is coming up next, as Cardinal outlines to Kirito and Eugeo what they need to do to take down Quinella. In an eerie callback to the original Sword Art Online, Kirito and Eugeo must fight their way to the 100th floor of the Cathedral to Quinella’s chambers, where they can take back the stolen memories of the Integrity Knights and hopefully restore them to normal. This is almost identical to the premise of season one, when Kirito and the other trapped players had to make their way to the 100th floor of Aincrad.
This episode also lays out the stakes for the Underworld. According to Cardinal, Quinella’s heavy-handed rule has unbalanced the world beyond repair. Therefore, if and when she regains control, she intends to defy Rath and destroy the Underworld. Cardinal feels that if she doesn’t do this, the world will be unprepared for an invasion of goblins and other dark forces that she is convinced Rath is preparing to send their way. Kirito, the eternal optimist, is convinced there has to be a third option, but for now he has agreed to Cardinal’s plan (which also allows him to save ten people of his choosing before the Underworld is destroyed). In other words, the burden is once again on Kirito to save a virtual world and its inhabitants.
Even if the series skips ahead a number of floors, I should think this next arc of fighting through the Cathedral should take quite some time, if only because Quinella (essentially the ‘final boss’) will be waiting for them at the end. Hopefully this is the last information dump episode that we’ll see for a long time. I understand that it’s necessary to provide exposition from time to time, but these episodes really slow the series down. Now that Kirito and Eugeo have left the library, I’m excited to see how they progress through the Cathedral.
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