The Buffy boyfriend everyone loves to hate.
When we meet Riley as Buffy drops a book on his head, he seems a bit doofy.
He glosses right over Buffy’s presence to talk to Willow — when they meet next, he recalls her only as “Willow’s friend.” In spite of the forgetful beginning (blame it on the book concussion), the two keep getting thrown together, and after Riley punches Parker for making a crack at the expense of Buffy’s dignity, it becomes pretty obvious that Iowa boy Riley has an eentsy crush on the Slayer.
What isn’t evident at their first meeting is that Riley, in all his Teutonic charm, is a member of a secret military organization called the Initiative that keeps demons in cages to test them in mazes, teach them tricks, and cut them open to put chips in their heads.
After Angel — and her brief stints with Scott and Parker — Buffy’s looking for normal. At least she thinks so.
She and Riley begin to date, both frustrated by their respective secret identity crises. When their more dangerous sides come to a silent standoff in “Hush,” they are rightly stunned. As does the rest of Buffy’s normal, her fuzzy relationship crashes right smack into her calling. It takes some serious finagling for that little seed of love to germinate while an uber-freaked Buffy tries to grind it under her heel, but when it does, Riley and Buffy ignite.
As the Initiative begins to show the festering rot inside, Riley’s world crumples with it. He anchors himself to Buffy — head over heels.
Riley sticks around into season five, but it’s clear that this smitten kitten’s love is one-sided. Riley’s need to feel needed drives him to endanger himself over and over, first by rashly patrolling alone and then by becoming a willing, walking blood bank for vamps.The best decision he makes is to leave. While in many ways he is a stable, normal guy in spite of his knowledge of government conspiracies and the underbelly of the demon world, Riley can’t seem to manage to really overcome traditional gender roles with Buffy.
He struggles with her being much more physically strong than he is, and he also is upset by her self-sufficient nature. Buffy seldom goes to anyone for comfort or help — though even during her relationship with Riley, she begins to seek out Spike — and Riley wants to be there for her. Which is, you know. Hard to do if she doesn’t open up. Part of the blame for that is on Buffy, but Riley ultimately cannot handle Buffy’s lifestyle. He later finds a human wife who is a Buffy more on his level — she’s bold and daring, strong and capable, but she’s also open and human.
As Spike put it so aptly, Buffy needs a little monster in her man. By definition, the Slayer line is a little bit dark magic, a little bit demony. Buffy has to regularly face not only the smash and crash beastie kills, but also the darkest philosophical and theological aspects of her world. Riley isn’t cut out for that. He’s a great demon hunter, but having to know the plural of apocalypse throws him.
As much as Buffy says she wants normal, Riley evidences that Buffy and normal are…non-mixy things. Buffy is the Slayer. She is preternaturally strong, sometimes telepathic, has prophetic dreams, and has died twice. This is not normal. She needs someone who understands the darkness of the world but rises above it. She needs someone with supernatural abilities and strengths to balance her own. While Riley is “the whole package,” that package is addressed to someone not Buffy Summers.
Stay tuned for a look at the tumultuous turned tender relationship of Buffy and Spike.
What did you think of Riley? Did you hate him with Buffy or love him? Both?
Get every new post delivered to your Inbox
Join other followers