Well, this was certainly a doozy of an episode. If the character animation had been more up to snuff, this would definitely be a contender for one of the best episodes of the entire series, thanks to all the twists and high emotions it hits you with one after another. As it is, this is merely a very good episode.
That's not to say that the visuals in this episode were a write-off. Even if the animation directors could have done with more time to correct the off-model art this time around, the directing choices here are still compelling. This episode is all about subverting the viewer's expectations, and it plays with some interesting visual effects in order to achieve that. The reflecting eyes—a motif which has been present since the very first episode of season 1—are back again: first in the scene between Subaru and Beatrice, and later between him and Emilia. The latter scene gives Emilia's eyes dark shadows so that the image reflected in them appears warped, which says a lot about her mental state at the time. There's also the grainy filter used in the final scene that very effectively communicates that Subaru is barely conscious.
Before I start discussing the aspects of the plot that I really liked, I will say that I found Emilia's characterization in this episode rather difficult to follow. When she first reunites with Subaru, the visual choices and her dialogue made me think that Satella had possessed her like what was assumed to have happened in episode 9. Yet Subaru seems to think that this is indeed Emilia—just not acting like herself. If so, just how did her attitude change so abruptly? The only significant difference in the situation at the Sanctuary compared to previous loops is that the snow started earlier, with Roswaal explaining that his goal in doing so is to isolate Emilia emotionally, but how exactly is he able to drive her to such madness? The kiss at the end was indeed chilling, though, so I can put aside my confusion to bask in the moment.
While there are plenty of remaining mysteries, I'm glad that Roswaal has finally broken his silence and revealed how he has been pulling the strings. He may not be the mastermind, but it seems that his goal is to manipulate events so that Emilia's spirit is broken and Subaru devotes himself slavishly to her. There are two scenes which really reinforce just how willing he is to play the long game: when he kills Ram and Garfiel, and when he gets eaten by the Great Rabbit. The first scene simply proves that he's callous with other people's lives in the pursuit of his goals, but the second one really drives home the idea that he doesn't even care about his own life as long as a version of him in some far-off timeline has his wish fulfilled. As Subaru says, this isn't how an ordinary person should think at all.
Roswaal's attitude is contrasted against Beatrice, who also seems to be bound by a vow that she cannot undo with her own power. Yet instead of believing in hope for a distant future, Beatrice has given up, and her only wish is to disappear permanently. This is a devastating prospect to Subaru, because not only does he have a strong attachment to Beatrice, he's taken it upon himself to treat his own life callously so that the other lives can be saved. Beatrice's defeatism spits in the face of everything Subaru holds dear. Her scenes with Subaru this episode were the personal highlight for me; it's honestly quite gut-wrenching to peel away her smug facade to see the depths of her loneliness and despair within. Just like their previous encounter, the two end up talking past each other, even as Subaru swears that he'll save her.
As for what ties all of these events together, it all seems to come back to Echidna in the end, as it's revealed that Beatrice is a spirit who was contracted to Echidna. That said, it remains to be seen whether she has anything to do with the attack on the inhabitants of the mansion. This episode reveals that Elsa's partner-in-crime is Maylie, the little blue-haired girl who was behind the Mabeast attack in the first season, but the two continue to play coy about who's behind the operation. This first cour of Re:Zero's second season will probably wrap up without any definitive answers, but I'm fine with that. I'm really quite glad that this cour has been able to feature so many big emotional moments while keeping so many cards to its chest to play later.