Good overview, and the dodging of spoilers was aptly handled. The more detailed focus on the characters in this batch of episodes is very welcome; it's a bit of a shift from how much of part 1, I think it's fair to say, was mostly interested in showing off the group and getting us to understand both it and everyone's relative place in it. In retrospect Al's episode is pretty darn strong, and I kind of enjoy how his story doesn't make you very comfortable at first. On one level you feel sorry for him, but on another level you have this monster not too far underneath that enjoys toying with his prey.
Azadistan did a lot to help establish Setsuna as the main character, I think. It's all about him, it ties to the start as noted in the review, and the way he handles everything is different from what almost anyone in the show expected. In addition to coming off as a Gundam nut he also came off as a fairly irresponsible pilot in the earlier episodes all things considered, given his erratic solo actions. But in that story he made his own decisions and proved himself as a guy who was both competant and trustworthy.
Best fight in the set for my money, by the way, short as it was: Graham's bout against Lockon. Short but beautiful little exchange, there. Also one of the very few times Dynames is forced to fight in close range.
I would suggest that it's not the medium, but the quality of perception and expression, that determines the significance of art. But what would a cartoonist know? -Bill Watterson