After such an explosive ending for Episode 16, this episode lets the audience immediately see that Kirito and Alice have survived. Kirito is hanging onto his sword, and he has grabbed Alice’s hand to keep her from falling. There’s a great interaction between the two of them here, but it’s through this banter and talking that Alice is convinced to make a temporary true with Kirito in order to get back into the cathedral. Kirito is the one who comes up with the plan to climb up the wall and he’s the one to start it. It’s actually kind of amusing to see Alice timidly admit that even though she’s an Integrity Knight, she’s not used to doing things climbing up a wall while going from one thin foothold to another. Kirito is able to help pull her along, and we see the teamwork that comes into play.
But as they climb, they discover some ugly statues that turn out to be creatures from the dark realm known as Minions. Kirito and Alice use their teamwork to take on the creatures, and Alice realizes that something is very wrong about this. These creatures should not be able to be at the Cathedral in any capacity, and that someone from within the Church must be violating the laws to make this happen. Kirito also seems to jog a memory out of Alice, but she tries to explain her slip-up away. While she had a slight negative reaction when recalling this memory, it’s nowhere near as drastic of a reaction that another Integrity Knight had earlier in the series when he remembered his past. I’m thinking that over the course of this season, Kirito and Eugeo will somehow help Alice unlock her memory without her losing her mind. But how this will be accomplished, I just can’t say.
There was also a surprise in this episode: we got a brief scene of Asuna in the real world! Since there are no shots of the real world in the current opening credits, I had convinced myself that the real world wouldn’t even be touched on during the Winter 2019 season. Although it was a very brief scene, it was still a nice touch. I think what we saw in this brief scene will somehow be important later, which is why we got to see it.
Most of the episode focused on Kirito and Alice, but the final scene sees Eugeo encountering a muscular Integrity Knight who is taking a bath. It appears that the next episode will see Eugeo taking on this knight by himself, although I expect said knight will get out of the bath and put something on before fighting Eugeo. This time, I think Eugeo will be truly alone fighting this guy. Unless something unusual happens, I can’t see a way for Kirito to jump in at the last minute and save Eugeo if the battle goes badly. I could be wrong about that, but I want to finally see Eugeo find some agency for himself and not be relying on Kirito all the time.