Editor’s Note: To celebrate Genevieve Padalecki’s birthday, I went looking through our archives for articles about her portrayal of Ruby. This 2-part analysis was first published in December of 2011. It traces Ruby’s motivations and impact on Sam and Dean from her introduction in season 3 through her death in season 4. It goes deeper than anything else I’ve seen on the subject, providing insight into not only her role in the apocalypse but also her personal story, how she was able to influence Sam so completely and orchestrate the schism between the brothers, and what might have happened had she not been killed. When this was originally published, Ruby’s character was highly controversial (as you will infer from the author’s comments). Genevieve was also not yet married to Jared, so she was not yet the beloved part of the SPNFamily that she is now. I hope you enjoy this character study, which is as penetrating now as it was 8 years ago.
Start back at Part 1 if you missed it.
Before diving back into this, I again would like to issue a reminder. Please, please, please! I beg, plead, ask and request, no attacks on the actresses. This is a sensitive subject to the fandom in general, I realize that. But this is a look at the demon Ruby, not at the women who worked on a film set. Also, please keep in mind that this is entirely opinion.
Blond Part Deux
Hot diggity! Things were going well for Hell. Dean Winchester was on Alistair’s rack. Lilith was gathering her power on earth. And Ruby, well Ruby was being taught her lesson before renewing the hunt for Sam. She was scolded well and good. “You are not up top for your own pleasure Ruby girl. Don’t forget again.”
I wonder, did she peek in on Alistair and Dean? What a temptation! To see Dean, hated Dean, pain wracked on the rack. I bet the bitch did. And I bet she smiled.
But she didn’t linger long, she couldn’t. There was a lot of work to do with Sam. So up she went, with ‘orders’ from Lilith to kill him. Ruby didn’t change her tactics much. She jumped another blonde, kept the kick ass, smart mouthed, manipulative, sensuous, intelligent, condescending and bossy attitude. Not Ruby’s best move.
It almost looked, in their first meeting after Dean’s death, that Ruby expected Sam to beg for his life. Beg for the chance to kill Lilith. But Ruby miscalculated, Sam’s headspace was far from where she wanted him to be. So she killed the demon with her and piled Sam into the Impala. Now she expected him to be grateful. She was still trying to ride herd on him. And Sam had had enough. He was hurting and in no mood for bossiness or condensation. She demanded his sympathy but he only had room to think about his own pain.
“I took all of this risk to get back to you, so yeah, I deserve a damn thank you.”
“Who asked you to save me?”
“I’m just trying to help.”
“Can you help me save Dean?”
“No. Nothing I know of is powerful enough to do that.”
“Then I have no use for you.”
“Whose body are you riding Ruby?”
“What do you care? You’ve never asked me that before.”
“I’m asking now.”
“Let her go.”
“Or I send you right back to hell.”
Hell and damnation! That must have pissed Ruby off. Her old approach had hit a brick wall. Sam was done with her. She didn’t even have a chance to bring up revenge on Lilith. Almost everything she had built in the past year had just gotten leveled. She had to start again. Really start again.
And not only did she have to find a new tactic, but Sam had set an absolute boundary about her possessing people. This must have been a particular aggravation. I’m going to take a quick detour to talk about demon possession and the joy it must bring them. Even in the most boring of moments, they still have their meat suit’s soul to toy with. So when they are being ‘good’ and following orders and acting human to blend in, as Azazel’s gang did, they at least still had a soul to needle and persecute. My heart breaks and breaks again when I think about Brady. The real Brady, not demonBrady.
The man was a friend of Sam’s. I think about young college Sam sometimes. It must have been scary and daunting to truly enter the world of ‘normal’ all by himself. He was without his brother, without his father, without the confidence that he’d been trained to hunt a normal life. It must have felt empowering and liberating to finally be independent, but also very lonely. So he made friends, and one was a young man named Brady. Not Dean, not even close to Dean, but a good friend none the less.
Then Brady goes home for Thanksgiving and is jumped by a demon. How often was Brady forced to watch his friend Sam struggle to bring him back from “The drugs. The bitches”? Was Brady compelled to watch Jessica suffer? How often was he screaming at Sam to not listen to the demon wearing his face? Using his voice? Did the demon prod him awake so Brady could bear witness as Sam learned the truth about his introduction to Jessica? Was he begging Sam to kill him, just so it would all stop? If this has crossed my mind, it certainly crossed Sam’s.
Sorry for the side bar, but thinking about the delight demons must get from those human souls, underscores Ruby’s dedication, and (as much as I hate to put the word to it) her sacrifice. She had to be careful about how much chaos and suffering she caused. If she wasn’t, and Sam heard about it, there’d be no chance of him trusting her. He’d probably try to hunt her down. Her one avenue of release was the person inside the meat. There at least she could torture to her black heart’s content. Now Sam was even going to take that from her?
Ruby was stripped of this last channel dedicated to her own pleasure. The only thing left in front of her, was Sam. She had nothing to call her own but the hope that she could lure him to her Master. As sick as it was, Sam Winchester became the sun that Ruby orbited. It’s odd, but this demon had no recourse to selfishness. What the hell? No, seriously, what the hell? That’s weird, right?
I’m not saying she didn’t take satisfaction in twisting and tempting Sam down his road. But any real reward could only be hoped for at the end. There was no immediate pleasure to be found, except the pleasure of Sam himself. That is simply not common demon behavior. It’s freaky, it’s creepy, it’s something I kind of respect. And that makes me feel dirty! But I’m getting ahead of myself.
A Fresh Approach
Ruby went looking for a fresh cadaver to inhabit. But it couldn’t be just any cadaver, it had to fill certain specifications; female, young, attractive, preferably one without any pesky family members. Lastly, it couldn’t be blonde. Ruby was changing her game, and she didn’t want a lot of reminders around of her old methods.
So she showed up on Sam’s doorstep, all alone inside the body, proof in hand and a new persona. Not entirely new, she didn’t want it to be blatantly obvious that her manipulation was taking on a new tone. But she threw in a little more empathy, backed off the bossiness and condescension and, perhaps most importantly, made herself seem vulnerable. She had finally realized that Sam didn’t respond well to being herded, (only Dean has ever really gotten away with bossing Sam around) but perhaps she could coax him in the right direction. And what had he been doing most of his life? Saving people, hunting things. So she gave him something to hunt, Lilith, and someone who might need potential saving, herself. “Lilith is one scary bitch.” And recall the look on her face when Sam said he was ready to go? I read it as fear and a little panic. By putting on a dollop of damsel in distress, she wasn’t nearly as threatening.
At the same time, she made herself out to be a valuable and trustworthy ally. She got pissed when things weren’t going his way. She saved his life. She argued with him. She was soft, resistant, bolstering, sympathetic, competent, fought back to back with him, validated his grief, encouraged him…in short she offered herself up as a friend that I would like to have! Ruby no longer indulged herself in what she wanted. There were no more temper tantrums, no more “I know more than you, so do what I say” flounces. Sam was her sun and that must have felt so good to that grief stricken young man.
Then there was the blood.
I doubt my curiosity will ever be satisfied about that conversation between Sam and Ruby. “Yes Sam, to kill Lilith, you will have to drink demon blood. It’s what feeds your powers.” Knowing Sam, no matter how drunk and grieving, he would have been disgusted and more than a little reluctant. He’d hunted vampires and other blood hungry monsters. It would be revolting! Plus, demon blood is the very thing that had made him feel like a freak! He hadn’t even been able to tell Dean about it.
My guess, there was no way he drank it from a vein that first time. Or even the second time or 20th time. So Ruby probably drained some into a cup. It wasn’t enough, not nearly enough, for what he needed. But Ruby still felt she had time. The first seal hadn’t even been broken and it wasn’t like Dean was going to awkwardly appear and interfere.
So she let him struggle along without enough juice. The practice, the headaches, his frustration; Sam had to learn in his own way that he would need more. But how could she get him to be physically comfortable enough around her to drink from her veins? To have him want to drink enough? Well sex is a fun and easy solution. So she waited until a particularly vulnerable moment and turned on the seduction.
Quick break. Sorry everyone, but as much as I hate Ruby, as much as she annoys me, as much as I can’t stand her, well, that scene with Sam was hawt! It shouldn’t be! I object! Um, dead chick possessed by an evil demon? Gross! It’s revolting! And sordid and nauseating and I think I’m going to go watch that episode again. Ahem. Anyway, if any of you really do feel appropriately (i.e.: repelled) watching that scene, please let me in on the secret.
From bed play it would be a quick jump to blood play. “Don’t use the glass Sam! It’ll be cold and congealed by the time you get it all down. Here, take it straight from me.” Smart of her in many ways to integrate pleasure into blood drinking.
Oh, I’m going to jump ahead for a minute. I’ve wondered why Sam would go into such detail about screwing Ruby to his brother. My theory, Sam was actually, in that moment, going to tell Dean about drinking the blood. He said he wanted to come clean. But he needed to give Dean the context. It would be an incredibly difficult offense to confess. And Dean was being so wonderful, understanding and he was listening, Sam must have seen reason to hope for acceptance. But still, it wouldn’t be easy to say, so off he goes on a tangent of nudity. (Fun for me as a fan girl, not so much for Dean.) So he interrupts and Sam talks about Ruby saving him. And I do think that Sam STILL would have ‘fessed up if Ruby, in the guise of the maid, hadn’t interrupted! Ok, digression done.
Now maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never understood the sexiness of vampires and blood drinking. I’m sorry, but have any of you all tasted blood? Gag me. Suck on a penny, it’s just as delicious. It kind of reminds me of that taste in the back of my throat when I puke. So there would be the baseline gross factor, plus Sam’s ingrained disgust of blood drinking creatures.
Ruby married the physical pleasure of sex directly to the initially unwanted act of drinking her blood. As his tolerance and desire for the blood grew, sex wouldn’t be as important, but simply a part of the ritual.
I work with people who have addictions. On a daily basis I am witness to the horrors that addiction can wreak on a human. People do nutty stuff, monstrous things, when the demon of addiction drives them. Did you know it isn’t just the drug itself that effects people? It is the surrounding stimuli, the ritual they perform before and while using. The sound of a soda can popping open can cause an alcoholic to yearn for a beer. After a meal, that cigarette sounds especially good. Music means that it’s time to bring out the bong. Anticipation of the drug of choice is also a trigger. It only takes the thought, the hope, or even the mention of paraphernalia surrounding a drug, and a person who is an addict lights up like a Christmas tree. Anticipation actually causes the body to react as if it’s already on the drug. The physical body is preparing itself for ecstasy.
Ruby was many things, but not a fool. She was handing Sam a means to exorcize and kill her. Once he really started down the blood road, he would become more powerful than she could hope to control. What if she happened to piss him off one day? What if he began to mistrust her? She needed to leash him to her specifically, not just any demon he ran across. So she made herself more than his dealer, but a part of his dependence. When the cravings began, she wanted him to obsess over her, not just the blood. The sight of her, the smell, the sound of her name, the feel of a knife in his hand; all would become a reminder of his need for her.
It really was a rotten but intelligent move on her part. I’ve often heard people with addictions refer to their drug of choice as “the love of my life.” And the yearning, heartsick desire that transforms their face is tragic to see. They were talking about a glass, or a needle, Ruby offered Sam a warm, attractive woman. That bitch! (Please note, I am NOT calling Ruby the love of Sam’s life, but drawing a picture of the effects of addiction.)