This is an epic picspam meta exploring and celebrating Ruby. The ultimate grifter, who played the long game, and came so close to landing the biggest prize of all. Every since the big reveal in the finale, I wanted to go back and look at how she played the boys and all those demons - and us!
Ruby is a rare character in TV terms, in that for two seasons we get almost exclusively Sam and Dean's POV of her. Her motives are hidden from us, as well as the boys. Like them we are torn between mistrusting her because she's a demon, and at the same time being faced with her time and again acting to help the Winchesters. I think this created a tension that is one reason there was such a strong reaction to her character.
We know now Ruby was a very unreliable narrator and one of the joys of how she was written , is that we can now go back and rewatch episodes through a very different lens and try and unpick what she was really up to. This is one of the things Supernatural does so well, building a story with such layers that each season gives us something new to bring to the viewings of past episodes.
For a meta, therefore, this is going to have lots of questions in it and statements open to different interpretation. Plus there's likely to be canon i've missed or gotten wrong. I really look forward to your ideas on Ruby, her actions, and of course her interactions with the boys. Three facts, however, aren't up for discussion here - Ruby is awesome, and so are Katie Cassidy and Genevieve Cortese.
Thanks to marishna for her wonderful caps. Played with by me, free to you if by chance you want them. Canon and other stuff courtesy of the Supernatural Wiki.
We don't know much about Ruby's human life (and oh i wish we had've had a flashback to this!) except that she was a witch who served a demon ("Tammi" - not her real demonic name I suspect lol). Ruby died in during the time of the plague, so she's been in hell around 650 years.
We know Azazel located and contacted Lucifer in 1972 and started working on his "special children" plans soon after. So when did Ruby join the project team?
While Ruby doesn't insert herself into the Winchester's lives until 2007 (S3), my suspicion is that she was involved with the whole apocoplan much earlier. For one, given that Azazel died at the end of S2, she must have been onboard sometimes before then. Maybe like Meg and Tom and Duane Tanner she worked with him with the special children, or trying to find the Colt. Maybe her project was to find and release Lilith. Her her ability to understand and manipulate people, and her familiarity with pop culture, certainly suggests to me a demon who's been topside for a while.
As to her mission after that? Well here it gets a bit tricky, given what happens at the end of S2. I suspect at first Sam and Dean weren't necessarily part of it. Maybe Azael's plan was that whichever of the special children was the one who survived the 'celebrity detah match' and helped open the devil's gate, was to be groomed as the one to kill Lilith.
I think at least Ruby knew what had to happen to free Lucifer, so when John Winchester escaped Hell, and Dean was destined for it, Ruby knew he could be the one to break the first seal, so she had to make sure Dean ended up in Hell. Once Jake was dead, Sam was the obvious choice to kill Lilith, but he needed to be taken to the point where he would fire up his powers enough to do it. Basically with Azazel dead, Ruby is the one in charge of getting the apocalypse started.
You go girl.
You must remember that Kripke played his cards pretty close to the chest with Ruby. She, and Bela, were vaguely described as hunters, and even the casting side for Ruby gave nothing away, and it certainly wasn't clear whether she was to be an ally or foe. It did presented a more sexually overt Ruby, and of course fuelled specualtion that she was a being set up as a love interest for Sam.
The Magnificent Seven
Ruby is very clever with her first encounter with Sam. She's keeping an eye on him, presumably aware he may be vulnerable given the hordes of demons now on the loose. When the seven deadly sins attack, she appears to help him, using her amazing demon-killing ginsu - actions suggesting she is an ally, or at least an enemy of his enemy. There's small clue here tooto her real identity, when one of the demons, freshly released from Hell recognises her.
The Kids Are Alright
A meeting in a diner and time to establish her credentials. Ruby claims she's a hunter and demonstrates a lot of knowledge about Sam and his history with Azazel. Importantly she suggest to Sam he still has his powers, although Sam denies this. Ruby also provides him with information he didn't know about the death of people connected to his mother, and about the job he and Dean are on.
When these check out, this gives her authority as an information source. Hwoever Sam is a Winchester - they don't trust easily. And so he pushes until Ruby reveals...
SHE IS A DEMON OMG.
I didn't see that one coming ;)
And this is where i think we see Ruby has been studying Sam well, because she has to trust he won't kill her simply simply for being a demon. She uses the 'don't be racist' lik It's still a risk I think, albeit a calculated one, e for the first time, and this is what she is appealing to, that Sam is someone who will not act simply on previously held belief. Of course she also has a trump card - that she can help save Dean.
So pretty quickly Ruby has established that she's willing to kill demons to save Sam, she has knowledge that may be valuable and that she can help save Dean. And I here the basis of their relationship is established. not trust, or want, but need. Need on both sides, that will become more emeshed over the next two seasons.
Bad Day At Black Rock
Sam tells Dean about Ruby (and for the trivia minded this is the first time her name is mentioned). But he doesn't tell Dean everything. This one lie by ommission is really the first fork in the road which will lead him down the path to the events of Lucifer Rising . I think it's here that Sam starts following through on what he said in the s2 finale - that it's his turn to save Dean. And there's a whole metas worth about Sam's sense of self, and why he feel he needs to do this for Dean, and to do it on his own. Suffice to say it is something that will work in Ruby's favour, because I think it's that need that pushes him to see the world, and to act in it, differently.
Ruby turns up at Bobby's. He does shoot her, and I think she was relying on that - to demonstrate that he hasn't been able to fix the Colt. I would love to have seen more of Bobby interacting with Ruby (in fact this and the later scene in this epsiode are the only scenes they ever share) and it's obviously his love for Dean that gives her entry here.
Ruby: There'll be collateral damage...but, it has to be done.
Sam: Well, I don't have to like it.
At the end of the episode, Ruby is triumphant. I think she certainly sees Sam's killing of the possessed Casey and Father Gil as a step along the path she wants him to take (although whether he could've taken any other course of action is open for debate). Sam is regretful, but pragmatic.
Ruby:Sam, you know what happens when demons piggyback humans. They leave them road hard and put-up wet. Chances are those two would have died a slow, sticky death. You probably did them a favor.
Its interesting that while Ruby is crudely explicit about the act of possession, Sam doesn't, or chooses not to, explore the issue of the body Ruby herself is possessing at this point. Another indication I think, of things he is putting to one side in his drive to be the one to save Dean.
Dean and Ruby finally meet - and he tries to kill her. Ruby is trying to warn the boys about Tammi and her crew, probably because she knows Tammi of old, and how powerful she is (she can stop a bullet from the Colt which is serious mojo)- putting Sam at risk.
If Ruby has a blind spot, it's dealing with Dean. At this point his value to her how his impending death motivates Sam (and of course she must be relying on Dean to break the first seal once he is dead). Its dangerous, because this is the first of a number of times when Dean tries to kill her. It is only Sam, each time, who stays his hand. And of course in the end, Dean is her end
Sam:No one's stringing me along. Look, I know it's dangerous, that she is dangerous, but like it or not, she is useful.
Sam of course, has to believe this, because Ruby is still his only way to saving Dean. Ironically, in trying to stop being dependent on Dean, to be his own man, he comes more dependent on Ruby.
The viewer is also being faced with a conundrum - do we take Dean's side or Sam's in our attitude to Ruby? It's easy to see the reasons and motives behind both their attitudes - but it leaves us with an uncomfortable feeling of having to choose sides. This is clever writing, becasue its hard when the writers have build a strong "i'll give my life for you" relationship to sell us a shift in it. And through Ruby they not only make us believe it, they make us feel it.
Ruby does save Dean in after the witches put a hex on him, although again i think her motivation is that following their earlier confrontation, that it will make her look good in Sam's eyes. (Although i do wonder what effect dying before the deal was up wouldve had on Dean - maybe he wouldn't have gone to Hell and been in a position to break the first seal...mmm)
Ruby: Ruby:Let me serve you again., I've wanted it, I've wanted you, for so long.
So, a moment where i thought we might get sexy tiems between the girls...but alas no. Tammi does assume that Ruby escaped when the devil's gate was opened, but Ruby is non-committal in response and also it appears they haven't had contact since...well its unclear but maybe not long after Ruby died.
I think it speaks to the Ruby's focus on the bigger picture that she would've preferred to avoid this confrontation with Tammi, a demon on whom she had good cause to want revenge.
Tammi:Pretty mortifying I guess. She was one of mine. I turned her out a long, long time ago.
A tiny hint maybe, of how vindicated Ruby must have felt, when a demon as powerful as Azazel chose her as a confident.
Saving his life twice in a night takes the edge of Dean's desire to kill Ruby for a moment, and a conversation of great importance takes place - Dean finds out that demons were all human once.
Ruby:That's what hell is, forgetting what you are.... It might take centuries, but sooner or later hell will burn away your humanity. Every hell bound soul, every one turns into something else.
We also get Ruby spelling out her cover story - that because she has retained some connection with her humanity, so she doesn't want the demons to win. Ruby also confirms for Dean that she can't save him. Why does she do this? I think becasue its reinforcing what Dean hears three times in this episode (twice from Ruby and once from Sam) - that Sam needs to get ready "to life without you; to fight this war on his own." This too becomes an important point in Dean's character and the boys devolving dynamics - Dean's guilt, both about leaving Sam, and of course once he is back, over what he did in Hell. In fact my short theseis on both boys issues in S4 is that they felt unworthy of themselves and their brother. But thats another meta.
Jus In Bello
In Jus in Bello we have a big play by Ruby. On revisiting this, I must wonder whether Bela was actual part of the plan, whether setting the boys up was maybe part of her trying to deal with Lilith for her contract.
I am still unsure whether Lilith was aware of the role she had to play in bringing on the apocalypse at this stage, or whether her actions in S3 are just Lilith being Lilith and trying to wipe out what she sees as her oppostion, in Azazel's heir. Whatever, Ruby engineers the assault ion the police station. She then arrives at the eleventh hour with her solution - he death of one for the good of the many. Sam agrees with Ruby. As he explained to Dean in MM, he's looking at strategy and the big picture. Dean argument is that the ends don't justify the means. I love this episode so much because it is an impossible choice - but a choice that nevertheless must be made. It seems immediately that Dean has made the better choice, the more moral choice, until Ruby turns up and informs them everyone is dead. And this is reinforced in Dear God.. whenn the ghost of Henrickson tells Dean in grpahic details trhe torture Lilith inflicted on them.
Ruby was going to win whatever happened - either Sam would push for the virgin sacrifice (and whether that was a real spell or not is another issue, maybe Ruby would just call the demons off), and so cross a line he previously would not have, or events would play out as they did and the need for him to take more extreme measures (and listen to Ruby!) would be reinforced.
No Rest For The Wicked
As Dean's last hours approach, Sam summons Ruby. He's desperate enough now to do anything - Ruby knows that now he will be willing to cross the line and use his powers. From what we see later, I doubt Sam couldve become strong enough in a few hours to kill Lilith, but that doesn't matter. Ruby's timetable didn't revolve around saving Dean - as long as Sam started down that path, she'd probably be sure she could keep him on it after Dean died. She needs Sam to be willing to start developing his powers, but obviousy not strong enough to kill Lilith at this point, even the first seal hasn't been broken.
Dean of course is more resolute than ever that they don't deal in anyway with demons.
Again the question of Lilith's role is interesting - if she's in on things, then this event is all about harvesting Dean, and perhaps letting Sam know that he has some inate power against Lilith that Ruby can work on.
I think Lilith doesn't know the plan yet. Ruby does seem desperate to stop Sam from confronting Lilith at this point. Maybe she isn't aware of Sam's immunity to Lilith's power. I think Lilith does forcibly take over Ruby's body and sends her back to the seventh level of Hell. Which leaves Ruby in a really difficult position from which to orchestrate the apocalypse. But don't forget - She's Ruby - and she's awesome!
Season Four of Ruby will be up in a day or two.