One step closer to an answer, but the mystery still remains.
The return of Soma and Agni – and their curry-pan – brings pretty much the entire semi-regular cast of S1 back into the fold. With the exception of poor Madame Red, of course – she’s not coming back, but Ciel doesn’t even know she’s dead. What sort of game is Sebastian weaving here? Apparently, in glaring defiance of what apparently happened at the end of season one, he’s somehow brought Ciel back to life with a large gap in his memories. Why would he do such a thing, when his contract was very clear – what did he stand to gain by forestalling its execution? The writers of this anime-original season have set themselves a very high bar in coming up with a reasonable explanation for all that.
As for the narrative itself, we do indeed appear to be setting up a scenario where Ciel and Sebastian are the “good” pair, facing off against the evil pair of Alois and Claude. I have my doubts about that role for Sebby and Ciel, but no issues with the latter – Alois a ghastly little tramp, that’s for certain. He’s a sadist, especially when it comes to his buxom, monocular maid Hannah, who provides some distinct fanservice in this episode. The most provocative scenes by far, however, take place between Ciel and Alois, the latter in Hannah’s maid outfit. Even in this mangaverse it’s slightly shocking to see such moments play out between two adolescent males, but Kuroshitsuji has never been about acceptable barriers (anyone who has read the circus arc of the manga could tell you that) so it isn’t inconsistent with the theme.
As for Claude, I still see him as a pale imitation of Sebby and find his “Yes, Your Highness” rather pathetic. And I prefer the antics of the incompetent Phantomhive servants (especially sweet, clueless Finny) to Claude’s monkey-like triplets (are they human, demon or automaton?). Nevertheless, Alois and Claude are formidable and Alois definitely wants Ciel, in more ways than one. Of course the battles teased in the cliffhanger isn’t going to be the decisive one, but it does appear to be the first skirmish in the central war of the season. This was a good episode, with a more serious tone than the first three and a real feeling of menace and sultry tension that was more common in the first season. With the war of the Boy/Butler duos and the central mystery still out there, there’s enough here to generate a very solid season if it’s executed well.