We're approaching the end of Preacher's second season, and the penultimate episode got us thinking about the overarching themes at work over the past 12 episodes. The ideas of burial and submersion permeate the season, popping up in Jesse's flashbacks -- the Saint's literal submersion in the swamp and Eugene and Hitler's struggle to escape Hell by diving even deeper into it. This week, "On Your Knees" draws lines between the characters who start digging themselves out and those who do the opposite.
We start with Eugene and Hitler jumping willingly into the Hole, a.k.a. SuperHell, a.k.a. Tracy Loach's bedroom. Eugene's nervous, but Hitler reassures him that if he resists doing what the Hell expects of him, the machine will detect that his soul doesn't belong there, and a secret door will open -- in this case, a bedroom window. After playing out a few different scenarios in which Eugene slays personal demons, his biggest challenge (and the reunion we've been hoping for all season) knocks on Tracy's bedroom door.
Sheriff Hugo Root is on the other side, but this time, it's his face that's disfigured, not his son's. Eugene and his father spar like they used to, but this time, Eugene finally stands up for himself. He shouts that he was a kid who made a mistake, but in no way did he deserve his father's treatment. Root slurs out a subtitled "I love you," the two make up and the window finally opens. Hitler and Eugene leave his mutant worst memory, hopefully for good.
From Hell, we head back up to Earth, a week before Jesse pulled the sokosha from the swamp discovering the Saint's escape. We see what was implied in "Backdoors" -- The Grail scooped the Saint and replaced the sokosha with an identical, empty one. Hoover then drives the Saint to a warehouse, and becomes, like, the eighth person to request the Saint off Jesse Custer. Hoover makes the offer via intercom. Then they wait.
Now, a soulless man wouldn't hesitate -- especially if his wife and child are across the finish line. But the Saint is now rocking some gen-u-ine, Grade A, Jesse Custer soul, and things aren't as black and white as they used to be. While he ponders his decision, the Saint's wracked with happy flashbacks of his former life. We see his baptism and hear his wife tell him that his soul is where his goodness lies and he's neglected it for too long. We move through his family life up to and through his fateful journey to Ratwater, all the while hearing his wife's voice imploring him to be good. It appears we're meant to think that it was her influence that made him turn back to help the seemingly hapless pioneer family in the first place, setting in motion a series of events that would ultimately spell their doom.
With that, the Saint pretty much works out that he'd be responsible for death and destruction even if he did take extra special care of his soul, so he's fresh outta f**ks. He accepts The Grail's offer (they maybe de-soul him once more, not totally certain), and he goes off to kill Jesse once more. Meanwhile, Jesse still hasn't returned from his trip to see Man-Dog, and Tulip and Cassidy are getting tired of waiting for him. Tulip halfheartedly suggests she and Cassidy go to Biminy by themselves, and poor Cassidy gets lost in the fantasy for a moment before remembering that he has exactly zero shots with Tulip ever. But then, Jesse comes home and just in the nick of time has given up the ghost on God. Tulip and Cassidy are relieved and for a brief, shining moment, they kick back some drinks and relax. But then the Saint comes marching in and we're treated to another five minutes of people getting thrown across rooms. Tulip's officially gotten her groove back, though. The Saint literally has to knock her out twice to get her to stay down.
But, the Saint emerges victorious, and for a hot minute, it looks like Jesse's about to lose his scalp (just because the Saint wants to hear the sound it makes, drawing yet another parallel between the two characters). Luckily, Herr Starr has connections that swing both ways, and Amy Hill's Warden comes to take the Saint back to Hell before he can finish what he started. It's worth noting that she's almost deferential to the Saint in comparison to her treatment of the other prisoners on Eugene's block. And, when the Saint gets back to Hell, he demands to speak with Satan and the Warden immediately acquiesces. TL;DR - The Saint has more pull in Hell than Hitler.
As for Tulip and Cassidy, they head to the hospital for treatment and blood, but TWIST! It's not a real ambulance, it's a Grail ambulance, and Tulip and Cassidy find themselves in Herr Starr's office instead of Urgent Care. Starr cuts to the chase. Jesse Custer will be the new Messiah, and new Messiah's don't have time for friends. When Tulip protests, Starr drily points out that Jesse's special and they aren't, so what could Cassidy and Tulip have to offer him now? The thing is, he's kind of right.
After Tulip and Cassidy return home, they confront Jesse about The Grail and their messiah complex. Jesse outdoes them and reveals that that he's seriously considering it. By his logic, neither Man-Dog nor Jesus25 would do humanity any good at the moment, but the supernatural power vacuum currently in place cannot continue. Tulip and Cassidy don't disagree, but they also don't want any part of it (it seems hella boring for them). They leave Jesse in the diner, and he eventually winds up back at Starr's office, accepting The Grail's offer. When he asks, "What's the next step," Starr simply kneels and places Jesse's hand on his bowed head.
Jesse. Custer. Is. Jesus.