The bulk of this episode focuses on the human side. One of the episode’s late scenes shows the likely reason why: by doing so, it explicitly puts Schlain’s group and the Demon Lord and her forces on a direct (if eventual) collision course at the elf village. The more interesting aspect at this point, though, is what is transpiring on the way there. Basgath fills Schlain’s group in on a few more details about the Nightmare of the Labyrinth (i.e., Kumoko) and what all she was up to from a human perspective, which includes brief flashes of some content that was skipped over earlier in the novels. They later encounter some of the Nightmare’s Vestiges directly, and from the human perspective they drop tantalizing hints about knowing what’s going on, including about the reincarnations. More meaningfully, they don’t attack Schlain and crew like they did Julius’s party, and doubtlessly that’s because of the presence of multiple reincarnations. But Kumoko has already shown that she has at least a bit of a soft spot for her fellow reincarnations, so that should be no surprise.
Also on the human side, Schlain and his companions prove quite capable in a fight, even against another Earth Wyrm; could this be a new Hero’s party forming? Despite some shortcuts, this is a better-animated fight than the mess that constituted episode 14, and shows Schlain growing into a role as a leader. They also encounter the hole made by the Queen Taratect back in episode 15 and use that as their exit, with Fei even getting to resume her dragon form for the exit. All good – if unexceptional – fantasy fare. The most interesting parts are the dreams Schlain has. One seems to be of a woman reciting the words of the Voice, a woman who looks a bit like the one being crucified back in episode 11’s prologue. Is that supposed to indicate that this Sariel was sacrificed to become The Voice at the heart of the system, and is thus the core of the system. That initiates nearly as many questions about Schlain’s other dream, involving Schlain witnessing Shouko back in the Japanese classroom. . . and an actual spider in the classroom. That detail seems a little too meaningful to ignore when the series’ titular heroine is a spider, but that also just creates another strand in the web (heh!) of mystery at the core of this series.
On other fronts, the opening scene of the episode again implies that White is the future version of Kumoko, but that’s nothing new. What happens in the epilogue is more significant, though. Looks like one of the Parallel Minds shifted to attacking Ariel, and since that attack is operating beyond the normal parameters of what is possible in the system, even Ariel is at least a bit vulnerable to it. Unlike the Queen Taratect, Ariel only has one Parallel Mind on the offensive, but given the difference between how she acts here and how she acts 15 years into the future, this attack clearly had some long-term effect on her personality. Maybe the future Ariel is not Kumoko, but has a bit of influence from Kumoko in her due to this? How that plays out remains to be seen.
Then, finally, there’s Kumoko, who has finally reconstituted her head and apparently does not need more than that to deal with the occasional beasties. Besides generally being entertaining as a (literal!) talking head – and I do love the digitization gimmick for “graphic” content there – she’s scheming up an alternate way to survive a future DL attack via Abyss Magic. Should be very interesting to see where he thought process leads, given how she’s talking about reincarnating. . .
From an adaptation standpoint, both timelines are now squarely in the midst of novel 4, with even the suggestive dreams being directly from this part of the novels. Looking back from the perspective of having read later novels, both of those are massive teasers for revelations likely to be well beyond the scope of this series, and their implications are stronger in anime form. Expect to see both of those getting elaborated on should the series get a second season.