The episode opens with Asuna using her abilities to create a staircase to the World End Altar, and she and Alice begin running up it. Kirito, meanwhile, engages in a battle with Gabriel.
The focus of the episode is on this battle. In true shonen style, Gabriel has a couple of power ups, until we see his final form. That final form, though, shows just how much humanity he’s lost (not that he had much to begin with at the beginning of this series). At the very beginning, it looked like Kirito was going to be overtaken by Gabriel. The question that stumps him being, “Who are you?” This was kind of an nice touch, since Kirito is still healing from his issues that put him in the comatose state to begin with, and this shows that the procedure that was used to bring him back didn’t necessarily heal him 100%. But, this starts a chain of events that turns the spirit of Eugeo into a “deus ex machina.”
To power up to the final stage of the battle, Kirito uses his Night-Sky Blade to stir memories of everyone in Underworld. In the end, it’s the power of love that saves the day (how cliche is this?). This sequence reminded me a lot of when Goku uses the Genki Dama in Dragon Ball Z, and how this power up is a convenient way to stretch out the episode by showing various characters’ reactions.
And… this big battle ends in this episode. Yes, we build up to this battle, and it’s decided by the end of one episode. To me, at least, this battle felt even more rushed than the battle with Administrator. I remember complaining about how rushes Kirito’s battle with Administator felt… and this feels worse. And this feeling is intensified by how much Eugeo’s spirit was utilized as a “deus ex machina” during this battle. To be fair, though, it probably needed to go quickly, since the 10 minute time limit was established at the end of the previous episode. If the original light novel hadn’t painted them into that corner, perhaps the anime could have given this fight a little more justice. Because if the anime had given this battle the amount of time it needed, I probably would have been complaining about how this seems like an awfully long 10 minutes. In this case, I think the anime couldn’t win with how the fight was depicted.
So, yes, Kirito defeats Gabriel after he reaches his final non-human form. We see many of the characters logging out of the game, and we even see Alice disappear. The episode ends with Kirito realizing that he’s trapped in Underworld, and he thinks that he’s alone… but right at the end of the episode, when he reaches the World End Altar, he discovers that Asuna is also there. When I saw her appear, I realized that she was the one character we never saw log out. We saw Alice disappear, but not Asuna. So it wasn’t really a shock when Asuna appeared at the end.
Asuna and Kirito are trapped in Underworld, and there are still three episodes of the series left. Obviously, these two will be trying to find a way to get out of Underworld, but do they really need three episodes to cover this plot point? I’m just afraid that we’re now seeing the pacing issues that the Sword Art Online: Alicization had, which is going to hurt the ending of Sword Art Online Alicization War of Underworld Part 2. But perhaps the execution of these final three episodes will make up for the 10 minute time limit leading up to the final battle. I’ll only know that once I see these final three episodes.