Titled “Administrator,” episode twenty three is indeed Quinella in all her glory. The depths of her depravity have further deepened as we receive an explanation of the golem’s source material, along with how Quinella uses the perfect control arts over thirty different weapons. Not only is Quinella taking humans from the empire to create her monstrosity, but she’s exploiting the memory fragments of Integrity Knights to make use of the weapon arts. Quite literally there are no boundaries for someone like her, and it’s clear she can no longer see the line between human and object. Everything is hers to exploit, to take advantage of, and she’s so twisted, I love it.

The Sword Golem is driven by the maddening desire of the simulated knight personas to meet the ones they cherish, a powerful motivator in its own right, bur pushed to the absolute limit with thirty in a single entity. Quinella is using everyone’s common desire to be with the ones they love to power a machine made for killing. Yet it’s made even worse once Quinella confesses that the swords in the golem are derived from human beings. Jeez, this golem is really the pinnacle of Quinella’s degeneracy.

But in the unexpected move, Cardinal decides to give up her existence to ensure the survival of Kirito, Alice, and Eugeo. While I was expecting a full on showdown between all of them, Cardinal must understand that this situation is not something they can handle. With Cardinal going toe to toe with Quinella, no one will be able to protect the three from the Sword Golem, which we’ve seen hopelessly outclasses them for the time being. This isn’t a fight they can win, and Cardinal chooses the ultimate sacrifice. Eugeo voices the thoughts of probably all of them in that, “We’re powerless.” In a heart wrenching scene, we see Cardinal be flailed around by a sadistic Quinella, playing with her food. The ragdoll effects and Quinella’s cruel laughter only makes the scene ever the more frustrating to watch, yet it’s a testament to the futility of their situation that the ever heroic Kirito cannot lift a finger to stop it.

As Cardinal lays dying on the ground, Eugeo realizes what he has to do. In a remarkable display of character development, Eugeo decides that he’s tired of running, and that there’ll be nothing to return to if they run now. With a heavy heart, he does something I never saw coming, which is to turn himself into a weapon, to end this here and now. I’ll be honest, my heart’s broken. Eugeo isn’t even dead, but the willpower it must take to make this call is absolutely moving. To become a weapon driven by true human love, to combat the golem which satirizes it. Quinella realizes the danger in this situation and attempts to interrupt the transformation sequence, but Alice is quick on her reflexes and intercepts the lightning.

What results is a beautifully sleek, white sword that represents Eugeo. It clashes with the golem, but can’t seem to grab the upper hand. But driven to what I can only imagine as righteous anger at Cardinal’s death, the blade sprouts wings and pierces the core of the Sword Golem, blowing it to smithereens. But the feels train doesn’t end here, and Eugeo takes it upon himself to take on Quinella. I hope he could do more, but deep down, I knew there was a limit to what Eugeo could do in sword form, especially against someone as powerful as the Administrator. The sword shatters in half, and returns to the original Eugeo’s body, and it absolutely breaks my heart. He takes Administrator’s arm with him, but I can’t even begin to process whether that’s even anywhere near worth it. It’s not. Eugeo’s someone that’s been steadily growing from episode one, and after two seasons with him, I’m struggling to think he’s really dead.

Driven to despair as I am, Kirito seemingly gives up. I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s been half a year of weekly releases for us, but for Kirito it’s been literal years of his life. Eugeo is quite literally his best friend, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a much deeper bond that Kirito has had with any other male character in the series. And as Administrator moves to cut him down (which we all saw coming because she’s not the kind of person to keep promises), Alice runs in to save him. In a brilliant parallel to season one when Asuna saved Kirito, Alice does the same for Kirito, but this time he won’t let it happen again. He blocks the cut, and finds his resolve to fight.

The episode ends in one of the most unfair cliffhangers of all time, with a motivated Kirito ready to face off against Administrator. Perhaps she’ll find it surprising that his sword too, is not of metal. Nevertheless, next episode is destined to be amazing, I only hope it doesn’t cut back to reality and cuck all the viewers.