Roughly the first half of the episode introduces us to the group that has stormed Ocean Turtle, as well as gives background on who’s behind this and how this group got involved. Of course, it turns out that the U.S. is the one behind the attack on Ocean Turtle, and using a Japanese group to do their dirty work. It’s also revealed right at the beginning that the leader of the group that infiltrated Ocean Turtle, as well as his right-hand man, had a run-in with Kirito and Asuna in one of the games from the earlier seasons of the series.
As part of the first half of the episode, we also get to see the character dynamics of the group that’s infiltrated Ocean Turtle. The leader’s right-hand man and the hacker of the group definitely don’t get along, and some of their interactions (especially the hacker’s dialogue) are a little amusing. But, as far as the plot goes, after doing some digging around, they find two Underworld superaccounts that don’t have any passwords in the Dark Territory area: a dark knight and an emperor. The leader of the group decides to dive in as the emperor, and his right-hand man as the dark knight.
Meanwhile, in the sub control room, the Rath team is discussing some things, including the final load test that’s referenced in the title of the episode. Apparently, when this is run, the gate between the human world and the Dark Territory in Underworld will be gone, and the Dark Territory forces will invade. With Kirito having destroyed the Axiom Church in the previous season, they’re not sure if the human world could withstand the attack from the Dark Territory.
Last episode, it was hinted that Asuna was thinking about diving into Underworld. She confirms this when she joins the meeting of the Rath team, as they’re discussing needing someone to go into Underworld, give Kirito forgiveness so he can move past his guilt, and get Alice safely to the World’s End Altar so her lightcube can be ejected into the sub control room. Asuna sends a text message to her friends before proceeding into the dive. Unfortunately, we don’t see Asuna appear in Underworld during this episode. Hopefully in the next one.
We also get to a couple of scenes of Asuna and Kirito’s friends in the real world, with the first being Sinon having a dream of having an encounter in one of her games with the leader of the group that stormed Ocean Turtle. She’s rattled by this dream when she wakes up. We also see the group gathered together, with Yui explaining the situation at Ocean Turtle. Yui does hint that the others will be necessary later, so I think it’s safe to say that we’ll actually be seeing more of Sinon and the others during this section of Sword Art Online.
Right at the end of the episode, we get to see interactions between two people in the Dark Territory. It turns out that one of them wants to pursue peace with the human realm, but knows that they will have to take some members of a particular council if entering into peace negotiations are going to ever be a reality. The episode ends with the leader and the right-hand man making their entrance into the Dark Territory as the emperor and the dark knight, respectively.
While there was a lot of exposition early on in the episode, it was needed for the audience to finally understand who was behind the raid on Ocean Turtle. But even with the exposition, the story still moved along with the scenes that weren’t exposition heavy. Right now, I’m still glad that I took the chance to watch this after my disappointment in Sword Art Online: Alicization. It’s still disappointing that the lead-in to this material was so weak, though. I hope that my interest in this series continues to hold as these episodes continue.