In this article we return to talk about Alicization. If you are not familiar with the series, we recommend you to retrieve the reviews of the other episodes to this link.
Although we have left behind Underworld and the terrible war that involved all its inhabitants, the difficulties are far from over: once one of the two "sides" of the story is concluded, in fact, what is happening in the real world remains to be concluded.

Alicization: Counter-offensive

At the expense of the setting of the final scene of the last episode, with Kirito and Asuna flying towards the unknown future (and two centuries from their point of view) in Underworld, worthy of a full-fledged series finale, the climax between Kirito and Subtilizer still leaves a lot of unresolved, and that's what we'll focus on from now on.
The first scene worthy of mention is the actual end of Gabriel, who sees Alicia (the girl he killed when he was a child) re-enter the scene, or rather a vision of her, which confronts her killer by showing, for the first time in the series, his fear.

SAO Alicization: War of the Underworld - Confirmed the new release date -

Although this scene should have taken place shortly after his defeat in the last episode, its displacement allows an immediate connection with the emergency plan that Gabriel, in case he should have had a bad end, had prepared: the destruction of Ocean Turtle through a detonation. which would have damaged the nuclear reactor that powers the entire structure.

To complete this task, however, it will be up to Critter, who will find Kikuoka and Higa (the latter in a desperate attempt to stop the engine and bring Kirito and Asuna back to the real world).

The role of hero of the situation, however, will not fall on either of the two members of Ocean Turtle, but on an old acquaintance: Kayaba Akihiko in (digital) person, in control of Rath's second mechanical experiment, Niemon.
The return of Kayaba is not as much of a surprise as her absence would have been: we have previously confirmed that the strange creator of the Seed had preserved his mind in digital form, and with Underworld as an extension of his research and, perhaps, the very ultimate purpose of what he was trying to create, he has more than one valid reason to keep Rath and Underworld in check.

Beyond the dramatic flavor of the scene, however, one wonders if Kayaba's act of saving thousands of virtual lives (although, as we have learned, just as real as any other human) can actually redeem him from the acts performed with Sword. Art Online and Aincrad.
Fortunately, here Kawahara leaves the reader (or, in this case, the viewer) the freedom to decide and interpret Kayaba's last gesture in a personal way: if on the one hand the act is shown as heroic, in fact, the motivations of the scientist however, they remain intimately personal, without seeking forgiveness or amends.
The disappearance of his mechanical body (as well as the disappearance of Vassago's corpse) remain two big unknowns, as well as many other knots still to be solved after the actual rescue of Ocean Turtle: now that Alice's cube is safe, there is wondering what will become of her, as well as wondering what will happen to Kirito and Asuna once they are extracted from Underworld, after having lived more than any other human being has ever done, if ever they will ever be let out.

Alicization Episode 45: Beyond Time - Alliance of Souls

The next two episodes will close all the questions left open, and the title of the first half of the epilogue, "Alice", certainly suggests great changes in sight.