Through a short break from the progression of history we get to know our real antagonist, while all the pieces are placed on the chessboard to prepare for the future.
The Dark Territory, however, offers us an unexpected scenario.
Alicization: Gabriel Miller
The episode is not lost in useless introductions in submitting to the viewer a flashback that aims to remember some events of the first episodes of this narrative arc: specifically, we are brought back to the skirmish that the protagonists led against an unusually prepared group of players in Gun Gale Online.
We therefore discover that this group is responsible for the assault on Ocean Turtle, being prepared and trained for the operation through the simulated environment of the VR shooter.
It is on this occasion that we finally discover the name of the person in charge of this operation: Gabriel Miller, a mercenary and officer of the "Glowgen Defense Systems", contacted by the US National Security with the order to penetrate the Japanese base and subtract the Soul Translator technology.
Part of the operation was obviously successful, however the group of mercenaries are now facing the first difficulties: they are unable to penetrate the room containing the Light Cubes in the 24 hours available to them before the Japanese military counter-offensive active, nor can they enter with the advanced accounts of the Human Empire, on which the countdown of an enigmatic "final phase" hangs relentlessly.
Miller, with the help of his IT consultant Critter, manages to find two high-privileged Dark Territory accounts that have no protection: Emperor Vector and his Dark Knight.
In the meantime, we learn about the reasons for Kirito's condition, and the possibility that Asuna may, from within Underworld, restore the boy's identity functions. Keeping in mind the final phase of the experiment and considering the need for someone capable of fighting to protect Alice from the impending war, Kikuoka agrees to let the young woman enter Underworld with one of the advanced accounts available.
It is at this moment that we discover that, inside the Dark Territory, the news of Quinella's death finally arrives, but the reaction in response to this very important event may not be what we would have expected.
Considerations on the episode
With a few jumps from one chapter to another, reorganized to better adapt to the serial structure of the adaptation, the episode proposes some rather important parts of the overall picture of Alicization, setting aside the action and progression in favor of an episode more oriented towards exposing and preparing for the future scenario.
There is therefore not much to say about the animation technique, the use of sound and all the aspects that could emerge more in more active and lively sequences, while there are some narrative ideas to focus on.
The first, central element of the episode, is definitely Gabriel Miller: the antagonist is finally introduced definitively giving us a name and a context that, as we expected, hides several conflicts at higher levels.
If in fact it is not particularly surprising that the United States does not particularly agree with letting Japan develop a technology like that of Soul Translator by monopolizing it, how the United States has managed to make agreements with the Self-Defense Forces of Japan rather leaves you stunned .
The JSDF, in fact, apparently is afflicted by internal conflicts that separate Rath from a high-located portion of the department, which gave the go-ahead to the Miller group, guaranteeing that the assault was not answered for 24 hours.
Miller's involvement, however, at first glance would seem collateral, however we believe there may be more behind the soldier's true intentions to judge in part by his reaction to the existence of the Soul Translator but, above all, because of the enigmatic whispered phrase to Sinon during the fourth Bullet of Bullets, shown in a short flashback in which the girl is skillfully defeated not before Miller utters the enigmatic words "Your soul will be so sweet."
The other focal point of the episode is the final test of Underworld, which gives name to the episode and which is finally exposed in detail.
The test involves reducing the defenses of the eastern walls of the Human Empire to zero, thus allowing the forces of the Dark Territory to invade the area, thus triggering an open war. What we didn't know about this experiment is that if left to conduct in a linear fashion, human forces would emerge victorious from the conflict.
Kirito's actions, however, have destabilized the balance of forces at stake by effectively destroying the Church of Axiom and making the inhabitants of the Human Empire much more vulnerable, thus putting Alice at risk and requiring the sudden direct intervention of the staff of Ocean Turtle, a task that, given Kirito's conditions, has passed to Asuna, to secure the girl's fluctlight.
The experiment is the primary engine of the actions of both sides involved on the Rath base: the lack of knowledge of details on its nature pushes Miller to look for any way to enter Underworld, while the opposite pushes Asuna to try to look for Kirito at the 'inside the virtual environment, events that happen substantially simultaneously.
The real twist of the episode is however left to the final scenes, set in the Dark Territory, in which we make the acquaintance of two humans of this strange kingdom populated by monstrous creatures that, this episode confirms us, are also mobilized by souls digitized, human fluctlights in the form of orcs, goblins and monstrosities of all kinds.
They are Vixur Ul Shasta, Commander of the Dark Knights and one of the ten Lords of the Assembly that governs the Dark Territory, and his noble subordinate, with whom he has a relationship, Lipia Zancale.
It is the latter that brings the definitively confirmed news to Vixur that Quinella, the Pontiff of the Church of Axiom, is dead.
Bercouli had anticipated a couple of episodes ago that this would, sooner or later, happen and that the news would finally mobilize the Dark Knights towards the invasion, however here Vixur surprises the public by putting us in front of a scenario that no one, nor the Integral Knights nor the staff of Rath, had considered so far: the Lord unexpectedly sees Quinella's death as the perfect time to propose a peace treaty with the Human Empire, deducing that Bercouli was placed in charge of the order of Knights and considering it reasonable enough to find a meeting point.
To do this, Vixur believes it may be necessary to eliminate four of the Lords of the Assembly, a price willing to pay in order to guarantee peace between the two kingdoms.
The man continues with a marriage proposal to his apprentice, but their conversation is interrupted by the news that the throne room, sealed for centuries, has finally opened: Emperor Vector has awakened and this event could seriously hamper the plans of Vixur.
On this, however, the next episode, "The Dark Territory" will be focused, which will probably deepen what was presented in the final bars of this episode and give us a taste of Miller in the role of Vector.