No matter what way you look at it, Ereinus is playing dirty. Not that villains, raid boss or otherwise, are obliged to be fair – I could argue that part of the reason they're bad guys is because they don't. But the tactic that the Genius whips out at the end of this week's episode is particularly cruel: he conjures up memories and images of the people the Adventurers care the most about and shatters them before their eyes.
There are a few flaws with this plan, of course, and I'm a bit miffed that the most obvious one didn't get used here – when we get to see who everyone is thinking of, we get a very clear shot of the fact that Rudy and Isuzu are thinking of each other. Apart from the incredible cute factor there, the two of them are standing right next to each other. And with most of the scene shown from Midori's point of view, we know that they can see the other Adventurers standing near them, so technically that means that Rudy and Isuzu should know that nothing has happened to the other. But maybe it's just the thought of losing the person they love the most, the object of their reverence, that's enough to render them unable to rally their spirits and attack.
Certainly there's evidence to back that theory up. Ereinus, after shattering the reflected memories, makes a comment about how their heroes are all now lying on the ground, words that seem designed to imply that they're dead and gone, so that indicates a definite psychological element to the attack. Even more interesting is that there is psychology involved, but that in itself suggests that this attack, and Ereinus himself, are meant to be used against transported players. After all, if everyone was just sitting at home in front of their computers, the idea of their heroes being dead and gone wouldn't have nearly as much impact – just log out and try again, and everything is set right once more. Ereinus is operating on the theory that his words can truly wound the people fighting him, which says that he knows that they're real, living people, because even the game with the most immersive writing is likely to understand that an MMO with this kind of threat won't be as useful as something like a permanent level reduction or losing all of your gear with no hope of getting it back. Since we've know that the Geniuses are aware of what's going on with the Adventurers for a while now, this maybe isn't ground-breaking news, but it still is a statement of how deep the roots of whatever has been happening since season one extend.
That story element aside, the best part of this episode is undoubtedly seeing all of the younger players come into their own. Midori really does rise to the task of becoming a leader. It wouldn't have been enough for her to simply draw on what Shiroe taught her to do, even though at this point she may not actually realize that. Just parroting back or implementing what someone else has told you don't make you a successful leader in the truest sense; Midori has to have the inner fortitude to make the rest of the raid party listen to her for everything to come together. That she can pull that off is impressive, and that she knows to rely on Toya when she needs his help rallying the troops is just another sign of her being able to do what needs to be done; a truly strong leader knows when to delegate or to ask for help, and that's what she's doing. When you consider that most of the raid party isn't even made up of her guildmates, her success is even more impressive; yes, she was in Hamelin with most of them, but just having that one shared experience isn't enough to make them a working team.
How things will pan out now that Akatsuki has also stepped up remains to be seen. Toya may be able to be resurrected, but even if he's not, the rest of the group now knows that if they can shake off the Genius' attack they'll be able to pull through, if only enough to try again. It should be a finale worth watching next week – so, please, Log Horizon, can you just give me a little Rudy/Isuzu sweetness to go with everything else?