Aaand finally the show isn't all supposed to be about the action. It's a romance/fighter anime. So yes it is supposed to have a certain level of action in it but too much or too little would draw away from the actual romance side.
@EvanYannetti also it doesn't have as much action? It has pretty much the same amount actually except it's not as butt clenching because Kirito isn't actually going to die. However all of his fights would badly affect his chances of saving Asuna if he lost, which is how they make up for the loss of that danger.
@EvanYannetti for starters, it's all season one of Sao, it's just a different arc. And the reason that they veer away from their relationship is because they literally cannot speak to each other at all and the only reason Kirito is even in Alfheim is because he has one lead to save Asuna. The reason it's not like the first arc is because that's just it. It's supposed to be different than the first arc because their past that.