The pen is mightier than the sword, but the sword is mightier than the Sword Golem!
Quinella removes the chamber from Underworld, the Sword Golem has survived the previous attack, and Quinella reveals that it’s actually made up of 300 humans, with more on the way to stop the invaders from the Dark Territory. To do this, she used the memory fragments she removed from her Integrity Knights to turn their loved ones into weapons. And now that she has told Cardinal of the Sword Golem’s true nature, she knows Cardinal cannot possibly bring herself to fight it because Cardinal cannot kill another human being!
…except, ten episodes ago, Cardinal said that her plan was to basically destroy all of Underworld in order to stick it to Rath, so she was already pretty prepared to kill tens of thousands of humans once Quinella was gone. So this doesn’t really add up.
But yeah, Cardinal decides to just let herself be killed in exchange for letting Kirito, Eugeo, and Alice escape, which I guess she totally excepts Quinella to honor because…she’s apparently known for honoring verbal agreements? And Cardinal expects Kirito and friends to just run away because…obviously, they are fine with oppressive regimes? Sure, that sounds in-character for everyone.
Cardinal bites it in order to give everyone else a chance to escape, but Eugeo realizes that he can also become a weapon himself by bonding with the memories of young Alice, so he asks Cardinal to use the last of her power to turn him into a floating sword in order to fight Quinella and the golem, thereby making Cardinal’s sacrifice totally pointless. Then, in his new sword form, he destroys the golem in one minute, which I guess means that, as long as the blood isn’t on her hands, it’s totally fine if those people die.
Quinella doesn’t take this lying down, fighting and destroying Sword Eugeo, though not before he Luke Skywalkers her right arm off. He then reverts to human form, but bisected from the waist down and losing a lot of blood. She then goes to kill Kirito, takes her severed arm and…turns it into a sword instead of putting it back on her body, despite the fact that she has been shown to make swords out of thin air, but…whatever. Kirito is despondent, so Alice jumps in front to take the blow, but Kirito remembers Cardinal’s words about protecting loved ones and blocks the attack himself, ready for the final battle.
Okay, incoming rant of rantiness, because I am utterly baffled here. I think this might have been where the story went off the rails because I’m not sure much of that made ANY sense. I mean, I get what was needed for this point in the plot: Cardinal, the most powerful member of the good team and Quinella’s equal, needs to be taken out in order to show just how dire and serious the situation is, which will also make Kirito’s eventual victory seem all the more impressive. Okay, got it. But instead of having these two sides of the same being and system have some mindblowing final confrontation like I expected, what did Cardinal in was not being able to kill some monster because it was made out of humans. Humans who had been forcibly morphed into an abomination made only for killing. Humans who are probably better off dead at that point. THOSE are the ones she couldn’t bring herself to put out of their collective misery.
And to reiterate, the last time Cardinal brought up her long term plans, they were defeating Quinella, regaining control of the system, and then essentially destroying all of Underworld before the stress test invasion could happen and kill everyone anyways. At no point, since she sent Kirito and Eugeo off on her mission to stop Quinella was there ANY indication until this episode that she had even considered budging on that. Which is why it confounds me that part of the reason she sacrifices herself is that she can’t kill what are technically humans in name only. She never thought about preserving life before, so why is now any different?
Though it’s the OTHER part of why she dies that is just as confusing if not more so. She makes a bargain with Quinella, the one person who she knows for sure is totally crazy and evil, and seriously thinks she’d let people who invaded her castle and wiped out her invasion force leave? Even weirder if she excepts Kirito and the others to actually run away after coming this far, which is proven when Eugeo decides to stay and fight (which, as I said, made her death pointless), but then making Cardinal’s death DOUBLE pointless by turning into a weapon to kill the golem since the whole reason she agreed to that bargain was to avoid killing the people in the swords, but she apparently doesn’t care if she gives someone else the power to do it instead of her.
I think that whole series of events, above all else, really just drives me insane to think about. Other minor inexplicable things like Eugeo just turning into a regular sword or Kirito fondly remembering the bond he had with a spider he barely talked to or Alice being pretty much just cannon fodder when the season is friggin named after her…those are kind of drops in the bucket compared to this. But hey, Cardinal has met her purpose and so has reason to die. But why does Eugeo have to die? Well, I’ll get into that foolishness next week for the mid-season finale.