I was going to put this after the S4 retrospective, but then that would have left S5 as the only Kripke season that didn’t match up with its part number and that would have just bugged me. So now we’re going to have a brief examination of the character of Ruby and establish a grading standard that will be used later on.
When judging a villain, there’s principally 1 scale to use, I call it the “what if” scale and it involves 2 parts:
1) You imagine the villain succeeding or failing in another way. The clearer these possibilities are, the better a villain he/she is.
2) You imagine the villain in various scenarios. The more scenarios you can fit the villain into, the better a villain he/she is.
Note that this is not a scale of complexity, a very simple villain can be a very good villain on this scale. It also does not always have to be serious. Example: 1) “What if Darth Vader had shot down Luke Skywalker?” Then the rebel base would be blown up and the Empire would have gone on to rule the galaxy indefinitely. 2) “What if Darth Vader had to go to the DMV?” He’d force choke everyone in line, then force choke the clerk who denied him his tie-fighter tags.
This is why I find the Joker in The Dark Knight to be the far better villain than the Emperor from the Star Wars prequels. The “what if X/Y/Z happened?” works out for Joker 90% of the film (there are a few points that events are almost too perfect for him). Meanwhile if you think through “what if X/Y/Z happened?” in the prequels, the Emperor’s plans almost all fall apart (side note: when writers have to give the villain perfect, prophetic foresight for a plot to work, it’s a bad plot).
This also proves that not every villain has to perfectly sync on the 2 guides. For example the Emperor from Star Wars (even the prequels) is one that excels at the second scale while falling apart on the first (go on, imagine the Emperor at the DMV).
Ruby unfortunately… failed at both. On the second scale it’s hard to imagine her doing anything not Sam or Lucifer related because we the audience never saw her doing much apart from those two. Compare her to Meg which also benefited from the audience actually seeing her do non story-related actions.
But by far Ruby’s biggest failing is on scale 1. What was her end-game goal? To get Sam to use demonic powers to kill Lilith. So what does she do in her first appearance? Kill several demons with a knife. What does she do in her fourth appearance? Show Bobby how to fix the Colt so now the boys can shoot demons. Apparently she never considers that Sam (or Dean) might just take that knife or Colt and go kill Lilith, which they very nearly did at the end of season 3. Usually being a villainous mastermind means not helping your opponents obtain the means to thwart you. What if the boys had gone with her plan in Jus in Bello and killed Ruby? But this is one instance that’s a bit more understandable since a reasonable knowledge of Sam & Dean means one could bet safely on them not going with the “cut out a virgin’s heart” plan.
Repeatedly many of Ruby’s actions make little sense when considering her end-goal if not outright work against it. It would have made far more sense for her to convince the boys that there was no way to kill Lilith but by Sam’s mojo than to keep providing them with alternatives for murdering her. She wasn’t an awful character in any sense, but one can’t help but wonder what might have been had she been written stronger and more in keeping with her goals.