- “Well, well. You can take the boy out of the Initiative, but you can't take the initiative out of the boy, can you?”
Native to Huxley, Iowa, Riley grew up in a rural setting with fairly strong and self-reliant females around him. Every Thanksgiving, he and his family would stay at his grandparent's house for thanksgiving dinner before they would take a walk down a river with their dogs. He likened the thought to a Grant Wood painting.
CollegePrior to 1999, Riley joined the Army, and was trained in special operations before being selected to join The Initiative. The Initiative was a secret government military organization located in Sunnydale aimed at researching the demons that inhabited it because of its Hellmouth. Their headquarters were underneath UC Sunnydale, where Riley and the other soldiers masqueraded as students. By the time he started to graduate school, Riley was already one of the Initiative's high-ranking soldiers and thus led a double life, both a secret agent and a college student residing at the Lowell House. His two friends and fellow initiative agents, Forrest Gates and Graham Miller, as well as many other operatives resided in the Lowell House and used it to enter the Initiative via a secret passage. He was also the assistant teacher to psychology Professor Maggie Walsh, who was one of the leading scientists at the Initiative. He developed a strong mother-son connection with Professor Walsh who also secretly fed him drugs that enhanced his physical attributes. At the beginning of the 1999 school year, he met freshman Buffy Summers after she accidentally dropped her textbooks for Introduction to Psychology on his head. The two then on continued to share an unspoken attraction to each other. He realized his feelings for her after he punched Parker Abrams for making inappropriate comments about Buffy (as Parker previously had a one-night stand with her). While Riley did his best to keep Buffy from finding out his secret life, Buffy also wrestled to keep her secret life as the Slayer. They both came by each other during their duties when the vampire Spike, named "Hostile 17" by the Initiative, escaped and attempted to kill Buffy's friend Willow Rosenberg, but couldn't because of a Behavior-Modification circuit. During a simultaneous rescue, Buffy and Riley got into a fight in Stevenson Hall but failed to notice each other because Riley was wearing a military face mask, hiding his face while Buffy purposely covered the room in a blinding smoke by firing a flare gun.
The truth eventually came out when a group of demons called The Gentlemen stole everyone's voices, leading Buffy and Riley to catch each other on the job. They quickly worked together to defeat them, killing several of the Gentlemen's footmen. Riley saved Buffy with his taser blaster and Buffy used sign language to tell him of the box containing the voices. Despite the fact Buffy hoped Riley would be her "Joe guy", she still found comfort in the fact he was a regular human and that his ability to fight demons allowed her to worry less about his safety.Buffy and Riley started their relationship and both fought demons together and continued saving each other's lives and the world, although Riley was never quite let into her inner circle while he suggested Buffy to the Initiative where her strength, speed, stamina and fighting skill impressed him and Maggie Walsh, though her tendency to ask questions and inability to follow protocol led to the other soldiers finding her irritating while Professor Walsh came to loathe her as she thought Buffy was taking Riley away from the Initiative. After Buffy and Riley hunted down a Polgara demon, the two passionately slept with eachother for the first time, also being the first time for Buffy to wake up after sleeping with someone and that person still being right by her side. However, Professor Walsh watched them while they were in the act via a surveillance camera, so she attempted to get Buffy killed with a faux mission and a faulty taser gun. After the missioned hopelessly failed, Riley was devastated by Walsh's betrayal and left her mid-conversation despite her orders for him to stay. After hearing Walsh's following death at the hands of the cybernetically-augmented human-demon hybrid named Adam, Riley was greatly effected and started take it on Buffy, though this was largely due to the drugs given to him from the Initiative which started affecting his health. As he started to get violent and irrational, aiming a gun at an innocent civilian in a demon bar, Buffy convinced Riley to get some rest at Xander Harris' basement while she snuck into the Initiative compound with Xander in disguises to find out what project 314 was about. Riley instead followed after her, hurting Willow in the process and along with Buffy, Xander and Dr. Angleman he met Adam who recently made a stir by killing and mutilating a small child, which led Buffy to believe it was the act of a Polgara demon. Riley attacked Adam but was easily beaten along with Buffy and Xander while Dr. Angeleman was killed. After Adam escaped, Riley was treated at the Initiative hospital. Riley, however, kept taking the drugs yet through his own choice.
While everything at that time was sound with Buffy and Riley, problems occurred when Riley slept with Buffy's enemy and fellow Slayer Faith Lehane who switched bodies with Buffy and seduced him. During sex, Faith felt Riley's love for Buffy opposed to the common desire for sex she felt with other men. Because this feeling being alien to her, she left him behind in bed the next morning. After a vampire attack at Riley's church where Buffy got Faith to switch back, Buffy found it difficult to get over what happened with Faith though she eventually managed with the help of Jonathan Levinson in his alternate world.
Originally, Riley was heavily prejudiced against all demons, showing no approval for Willow Rosenberg's relationship with a werewolf Oz, but he soon realized that demons are capable of both good and evil just as humans are after helping to save Oz from the Initiative base, particularly after witnessing his superiors' inhumane treatment of Oz while in his human form. While he was initially completely loyal to the Initiative, events such as Maggie Walsh's failed attempt to get Buffy killed and the discovery that she was the one who created Adam as a super-soldier, caused Riley to desire to leave the organization, but it was only when he helped to save Oz that he realized the extent of the Initiative's corruption and turned his back on them in favor of the Scooby Gang.Riley then relocated in the burnt-down ruins of Buffy's old high school, Sunnydale High. After finding out Buffy visited her ex-boyfriend and ensouled vampire Angel in Los Angeles as well witnessing him beat up a couple of Initiative agents in Sunnydale, Riley assumed Buffy had slept with Angel and that he lost his soul again. The two fought; Angel easily taking out Riley with his bare hands while Riley used every tool he had. This feud proceeded in Buffy's dorm room where Riley barged in with his gun while Buffy and Angel were talking. The men then argued before Buffy broke them up and explained to Riley that Forrest had been killed. Riley then left the room out of grief.
It was discovered that Maggie Walsh implanted a Behavior Modifier in Riley after he joined The Initiative. Adam exploited this and used the chip in order to pacify Riley before the final battle. Riley, with no other choice, removed the modifier by lacerating himself with a shard of glass and pulling it out of his body with his bare hand. He then fought his best friend Forrest, who had been brought back as a demon-human-cybernetic bybrid like Adam, turned completely evil. Though Riley's efforts were unmatched to Forrest's new abilites, Riley managed to kill him by making him hoist a gas canister which exploded after catching a live wire.
The Initiative was destroyed in the summer of 2000, and Riley was relieved of his military standing. He was left at loose ends, and his behavior became reckless.
- Riley: “I think when this thing started ... it was just some immature, stupid game. I wanted to even the score after you let Dracula bite you.”
- Buffy: “I did not let Dracula---”
- Riley: “I know! On some level, I know that. But I was still spun. I don't know. I wanted to know what you felt. I wanted to know why Dracula and Angel have so much power over you! [...] I wanted to get it, Buffy. I wanted to get you.”
- — Riley[src]
A year after he met Buffy, Riley became a full time member of the Scooby Gang, though his suggested methods and tactics were foreign to them. Riley began to see himself as beneath Buffy in strength, so he began to push his body well past its limits in the hopes that he would catch up to her. He became increasingly worried with Buffy's relationships with vampires, being jealous at Dracula's allure to Buffy, prompting him to set out in his castle and hunt for him alongside Buffy's Watcher Rupert Giles, as well as noticing Spike's attraction to Buffy while coming to him for information about Dracula.After learning that the drugs Maggie Walsh had given him were causing his pain receptors to shut down and his heartbeat to spike, Riley initially refused medical treatment from the government out of paranoia, but Buffy eventually managed to convince him. After a brief face-off with Spike and Harmony Kendall, who were attempting to force an Initiative doctor to remove Spike's chip, they successfully managed to get Riley heart surgery, though this reduced him to a normal human being, only adding to his feelings of insecurity and weakness.
His relationship with Buffy also began to deteriorate when Buffy continuously failed to give him the emotional intimacy, trust, and honesty he craved. This was mostly due to her mother's illness and her growing interest in spiritually discovering her potential as a Slayer, having a long conversation to Spike about the two Slayers he killed while Riley went out patrolling with Buffy's friends and recklessly destroyed an entire crypt with a grenade to kill two vampires after killing one that staked Buffy.Seeking thrills, and wondering what Buffy found so appealing about vampires -having allowed both Angel and Dracula to drink her blood- Riley began to let vampires feed from him, becoming a regular at a "Bite Den", an establishment were vampires are paid to bite and feed on the blood of willing customers without draining them completely. Buffy eventually discovered this with Spike's help and destroyed the building where Riley's secreting meetings had taken place. His behavior, as well as Spike's manipulations and a sense that Buffy would never truly love him, led to their breakup. Despite Buffy's best efforts to stop him, Riley rejoined the military and departed.
- “They want me back, Buffy. The military. It's deep undercover. No contact with civilians. Transport's leaving tonight. [...] I'm leaving, Buffy. Unless you give me a reason to stay.”
- ―Riley's decision[src]
MarriageIn South America, Riley met Samantha, a fellow soldier who with him initially forged a duo demon-hunters, discussing tactics and missions before discussing about Buffy. They then got married shortly after. Nearly four months since the wedding, Riley returned unexpectedly in the next year, tracking a demon about to hatch eggs that could wipe out Sunnydale, and the one planning to sell them, known simply as "the Doctor".However, he did not return to make up with Buffy but to ask for her assistance with Sam arriving shortly. Nonetheless, when he discovered that Buffy had been engaging in a sexual relationship with Spike, he was clearly affected, though when he discovered them in bed together and when Buffy attempted to explain the situation, he hid his emotions. As it turned out, Spike was the Doctor, and Riley blew up the nest of demon eggs beneath his crypt. His mission completed, Riley and Sam left Sunnydale again after bidding the Scoobies farewell.
One year later, when Spike's chip began to malfunction, Buffy successfully managed to contact Riley for help. Riley personally sent a group of soldiers to help, but told them that what they were to do with the chip (either repair or remove it) was Buffy's decision.
Over a year later, Riley joined Twilight's followers to spy on Buffy, while convincing the Twilight organization that he was their "inside man" in Buffy's inner circle, and was marked with Twilight's symbol on his chest. He later met with Buffy in New York City. Weeks later, he joined Amy Madison, Warren Mears, and Twilight as they tried to track down the Slayer Organization to Oz's monastery. During a massive battle between Twilight's forces and the Slayer Organization, Buffy saved an injured Riley and reveals to her friends that Riley has indeed been working for her as a double agent in order to find out Twilight's plans and identity. After the war in Tibet, Riley comforted Buffy, who saw herself as a terrible leader by leading the Slayer Organization into the war against Twilight. Riley also got the United States government to grant amnesty to all members of the Slayer Organization.
A few months after the Twilight crisis was averted, Riley was stationed in San Francisco where Buffy and the other Scoobies had settled down, and was among those who attended Buffy's housewarming party. Because magic was banished from this dimension, Riley used a surveillance van to watch out for human terrorists.
When Faith attempted to find her way by joining Kennedy's all-Slayer security group, she was tempted to leave as she felt that she didn't fit in with the organization. She reconsidered, however, when Kennedy gave her a special assignment; to track down Riley who was currently missing and last seen in South America. In reality, he was captured by Walt Zane. After saving him and recognizing her rape, Faith apologized to Riley. Riley replied that the only person to apologize to was Buffy.
After the death of second Magic Council, Buffy decided that the only proper way to conduct matters concerning the new laws of magic is to have a mix of her allies in the council to prevent them from betraying her trust. Buffy appointed Riley for this role, as he was representative of human military forces.
Riley was the stereotypical "nice boyfriend" type. He was often depicted as friendly and very easy to be around with. He also was charming and occasionally witty. Because of his easygoing nature, Riley got along well with Scooby Gang and gained their trust, a sharp contrast from Buffy's previous boyfriend Angel following his return from Hell. Riley was rarely mean to people and very polite in nature, pleasant to just about anyone, the only exceptions being Angel and Spike(partly because they're vampires and partly because both of them carry a romantic interest in Buffy during his time as her boyfriend).
Buffy herself has described him as very reliable and solid, which was proven to be true on many occasions throughout their dating years. Also, Riley saw himself as "smooth" though upon his first time trying to flirt with Buffy, it only confused her due to his awkward ramblings, much to his embarrassment and frustration. Riley was also shown to be patient and supportive when Joyce's health was deteriorating, expressing understanding towards Buffy despite also feeling disappointed she never truly opened up or allowed herself to be vulnerable with him.
Due to his affiliation with The Initiative, Riley was shown to fit well in a leadership role, effectively leading the Scooby Gang upon Buffy's request during patrol and also with his squads in the military. Though because of his involvement with the military, Riley also carried a black-and-white outlook when it came to demons and humans. This was seen in his prejudice of Willow dating a werewolf at one point, much to Buffy's annoyance, who had previously been involved with a vampire, his brutally lambasting Buffy and the Scoobies for harboring Spike, and also his berating Willy the Snitch for serving demons at his bar while nearly shooting a human patron. Riley seemed to slightly let go of his "all demons are bad" mentality a little during his relationship with her, but remained mostly fixed in that outlook as he openly showed distrust towards Spike, even threatening to kill him despite being harmless. Even Angel has described him as "very humans first".
Despite his outward displays of confidence and carefree nature, he was revealed to have underlying insecurities and lack of self-confidence regarding his relationship with Buffy. This was because he had worried that he wasn't strong enough for Buffy who seemed to be drawn to less-than-human men. Despite briefly casting his worries aside thanks to Buffy, it returned not long after. His character then took on a darker turn, as he became increasing more reckless, driven to the point of allowing female vampires to feed on him for a rush, as he felt more needed with them.
Riley also is seen to have a fierce jealous streak in him, as he had quickly came to blows with Angel in an alleyway while he was on his way to apologize to Buffy  and had violently confronted Spike on three separate occasions.
Powers and abilities
Due to his military training, Riley possessed immense knowledge of and expertise in strategy, hand-to-hand combat, vampire hunting, tracking, and weapons handling techniques. He also displayed medical knowledge, competently treating a severe puncture wound that Buffy suffered to the abdomen. Also, for a time, he possessed enhanced physical attributes due to the drugs he was secretly fed, though nowhere near the level of a Slayer, but lost these abilities after suffering symptoms of withdrawal from the drugs, including a heart attack.
- Buffy Summers — Riley met Buffy on her first day at UC Sunnydale after she had accidentally caused books to fall on top of his head. He was polite to her but took more interest in Willow (intellectual-related reasons, not romantic), finding Buffy herself a bit unusual. He was the teacher's aid to Dr. Walsh and often gave Buffy some advice every once and while but was still turned off by her quirky behavior. While discussing with his friends Forrest and Graham over her, Riley agreed that she was attractive but claimed she was "too peculiar" for him. After seeing Parker Abrams vulgarly brag about his sex with Buffy and then belittling her, he was furious and punched him in the face. Because of this, Riley realized he had a crush on her. Wanting to get some advice and find out more about Buffy, he sought out Willow for some help. After her initial rudeness and disinterest, she gave in. With some help, he approached Buffy during a party at his house only to awkwardly mention homework rather than smoother talk, much to her confusion. Riley tried to talk with her again, only for Buffy to go off to fight Spike. In a mission looking for "Hostile 17", he saw Buffy sitting alone on a bench in the vicinity of their target. Unaware of her slayer status and quickly denying Forrest's offer to use her as bait, Riley tried in vain to send her back home for protection. Later the next day, Riley then managed to work up a proper conversation with her and they began spending time together more frequently. Riley soon admitted to her he liked her and found her a "mystery". After going on a picnic date with her, he would later run into her looking at wedding dresses. Under the influence of a spell, Buffy claimed they should just be friends since she was getting married to Spike. Riley was very confused and betrayed by this, believing that she had been intentionally leading him on. After asking her several questions, he eventually became so estranged by her replies that he took off and ordered her not to follow him. After the spell was broken, an embarrassed Buffy told him she had been kidding over getting married. Riley was still puzzled by her previous behavior, but nonetheless glad that she was single. Riley and Buffy openly flirted with each other consistently and Riley soon attempted to kiss her, only for Buffy to become nervous and back off at the last second. Riley, along with Buffy, both expressed their guilt at keeping their secret demon-fighting identities from each other. Being brought together because of the Gentlemen, Riley and Buffy had their first kiss. However, their relationship became strained when both of them had accidentally exposed their double lives to each other. While Buffy remained distant and distrusting of him, Riley was in awe of her abilities despite his initial ignorance of what a slayer was. Riley debated over what to do and decided that he still wanted to be with Buffy. However, due to her fear of another doomed relationship and how dangerous her life was, she rejected him and explained they could not be together. Riley was frustrated and confused by this, attempting to convince her otherwise. They both clashed over their differing views of fighting demons. For Riley, he saw it as noble and an adventure while Buffy saw it as destiny and a burden. Eventually growing completely fed up with her reluctance, Riley became bold and again confronted her of it. He accurately criticized her of being too afraid to be optimistic and take a chance because to her having a "doom-and-gloom" mentality was 'safer'. Buffy was annoyed and initially shut him out again. However, after closing the Hellmouth, Buffy changed her mind. She believed he had a point in his words and kissed him, willingly accepting a relationship. Riley began a serious relationship with Buffy, but struggled to absorb her vast experience in slaying and saving the world, making him a complete amateur in comparison. While sparring with Buffy, Riley was extremely uncomfortable and surprised by her super strength compared to him when she had accidentally kicked him across the room. A direct conflict quickly arised between them as Riley's first instinct was to do things with The Initiative and take orders from them while Buffy ignored this and did what she wanted to no matter who stood in her way. Seeming to accept Buffy's supernatural abilities and very "take charge" approach to things, Riley assured her that he was attracted to those traits of her. Riley would later explain to Walsh Buffy's tendency to rule breaking, but consequently defended her, saying she was good at what she did and that she had the "most truest soul he ever knew. Riley welcomed her in The Initiative and their capturing of HSTs, giving her a tour of the place. However, Buffy was extremely out of place in it due to her tendency to question orders and do things her way. After going with his squad and neutralizing a demon, Riley and Buffy sleep together for the first time, furthering their relationship. When Professor Walsh told him Buffy was dead due to a freak accident, Riley was grief-stricken and in strong denial. However, upon the realization of Buffy still being alive and that Walsh had been the one to try to kill her, Riley was cold towards her, walking away on the spot. Riley started questioning The Initiative and Maggie Walsh's motives when Buffy insisted to a disbelieving Riley she had tried to kill her. Riley's grief for Walsh's death and withdrawal from the drugs she had fed him made him very hostile towards Buffy, questioning if she really was on the good side since she was harboring the vampire Spike. Everything falling apart around him, Buffy tended to a delirious and sick Riley for a while until he was eventually taken in by The Initiative to be treated. Riley and Buffy reunited. Struggling to define his identity and purpose as his connection to The Initiative was floundering more and more, he was cheered up by Buffy. She encouraged him that he could do what he wanted with The Initiative, he had a choice to leave them or stay. When Riley wondered aloud what was left of him if he did part ways with them, Buffy responded genuinely, "A good man." Riley failed to identify the difference in Buffy when Faith occupied her body, successfully seducing him with her overly provocative behavior. While he was having sex with her, Riley confessed to "Buffy" that he loved her. Faith freaked at this and suffered from a brief identity crisis, only for Riley to comfort her, still believing it was Buffy. After the body swap was resolved, he was very guilty over his technical "cheating" of Buffy. As Buffy distanced herself from him and partially blamed him for sleeping with Faith, Riley became even more guilty and lamented to Jonathan that he doubted she would ever really forget what happened. However, through the meddling of Jonathan, Riley danced with Buffy at The Bronze and alleviated her insecurities over Faith, reassuring her that she was the only one he cared for and wanted. Under the affects of mystical influence, Buffy and Riley spent several hours having sex together uncontrollably, unknowingly causing havoc in the Lowell House by creating energy for Genevieve Holt and the poltergeists. Once they were in control of themselves, Buffy and Riley were guilty over the damage they caused, even if the sex was enjoyable. Riley and Buffy clashed again over Riley's black-and-white outlook of demons and humans, originally seeing it was too dangerous to date someone that wasn't human, seen in his disapproval over Willow's previous relationship with Oz. Having fallen in love with a vampire, Buffy was angry and deeply offended by his prejudice. However, seeing the cruelty that Oz was put through in The Initiative, Riley's black-and-white outlook changed a little. He gave up his association with The Initiative and chose to fight on Buffy's side instead. Riley was told of Buffy's previous relationship with her vampire ex-boyfriend Angel. He was uncomfortable and worried of this information, especially since Buffy had run off to L.A. to help him. It became worse when Xander was more specific than Buffy had been, telling him of how Angel had fallen in love with Buffy and sleeping with her triggered a removal of his soul due to a "moment of perfect happiness". Riley became insecure and jealous, immediately assuming Buffy would sleep with Angel during her visit. After a furious clash with Angel in an alley, he had refused to allow him to come near Buffy, believing he had lost his soul again and would harm her. When Buffy had made amends with Angel, Riley had thought she was breaking up with him. Once made clear that was not the case, he apologized for his distrusting behavior, noting that things happened with exes and that girls often had a thing for "bad boys". When Buffy questioned why he felt like this, Riley confessed he was overly jealous because he was in deeply love with her and it blinded reason. She was touched by this, and the two hugged. After the battle with Adam and shutting down The Initiative, Riley and Buffy resumed a fairly stable and happy relationship for a few more months. However, Riley began to doubt himself and how much Buffy felt for him after expressing an attraction to Dracula. Having been under his thrall, he was uncomfortable to see that Buffy had allowed him to bite her. Riley tried not to take it personally, given her previous relationship with Angel. Buffy was slightly offended, and told him she was still his girl. Riley accepted her words, even if some part of him still didn't believe her. As Buffy started to embrace her slayer heritage and took it more seriously to "discover her true nature", Riley struggled to fully understand her fixed focus on it and how their relationship was second in importance. Nonetheless, when Buffy asked if he would have wanted her to be split into "Slayer Buffy" and "Buffy Buffy" by Toth, Riley calmly and sincerely disagreed. He explained that he knew being a slayer was part of who she was, and it did not change the enormous love he felt for her. Buffy was grateful by his declaration, but did not say she loved him back. During a discussion with Xander, Riley confessed to him that he was completely in love with Buffy and that he felt like she was "the One". However, Riley also declared "Buffy's like nobody else in the world ... but she doesn't love me." Riley's hidden insecurities cultimated when he was given enhanced strength due to an after-effect of the Initiative drugs he had taken before. While it threatened his life, he initially refused to give it up because he would never be able to keep up with Buffy if he did. Riley saw his super strength as the only thing that would keep his relationship with her together, believing that Buffy was only attracted to superpowered men like Angel had been. During an emotional confrontation with her, Riley admitted that the stronger she got the more distant Buffy she became, and he could not bear to lose her. Buffy was angry, and denied everything he had said, insisting that she did need him and she wanted him healthy again. Eventually, Riley agreed to get himself fixed, but it only brought back his insecurities that Buffy truly felt the same for him like she believed. Riley seemed to put his fears to rest, only for Buffy to remain cagey and still refuse to be truly vulnerable with him. Riley was frustrated with this, and went drinking alone at Willy's bar to drown in his sorrows. A vampire named Sandy had hit on him, but despite his sadness, Riley had refused and explained his heart belonged to someone else. Riley's insecurities grew worse than ever, as Spike had manipulated his fears by explaining that though there was no question Buffy cared for him, she was only able to love dark, dangerous men. As Buffy started to keep him out of the loop of things in her life through her concern for Joyce, Riley went back to the bar to drink his depression and even let Sandy briefly bite him before he staked her. He made another attempt to connect to Buffy, only for her to brush him off in her preference to stay strong for the group. Driven away more and more by Buffy's distant attitude, Riley started becoming a regular in the "Bite Den". He continually allowed vampire prostitutes to feed on him as an emotional substitute for his desire to be needed. Thanks to the manipulations of Spike, Buffy found out what he had been doing and was greatly hurt and betrayed. After having a violent confrontation with Spike (who only fed more of his doubt by reiterating Buffy could only love someone with darkness in them), Riley confronted her. He explained that while what he did was wrong and the situation was entirely his fault, he felt that Buffy continually kept him at a distance and though he loved her, he couldn't stay with her anymore if she didn't give him a reason to. After giving her an ultimatum, Riley waited for Buffy to stop him, but Buffy arrived too late. Thinking it meant she had never cared enough to stop him, a heart-broken Riley left Sunnydale and rejoined the military.
- Sam Finn — Sam and Riley met in South America when she joined his group of demon fighters there. She helped Riley get over Buffy by talking about his failed relationship. Eventually the two fell in love and became partners in demon hunting.
- Faith Lehane — Riley unknowingly slept with Faith in Buffy's body. He didn't realize at the time that anything was different about Buffy despite her overly provocative behavior toward him. Riley was slightly suspicious when Faith mentioned sex games in an extremely blunt and crude manner that Buffy would most certainly never do, but the moment was brief. Riley would then admit to "Buffy" that he loved her, only for Faith to be overwhelmed and immediately push him away from her. As she freaked and questioned what he wanted from Buffy, Riley tried to comfort her, still not realizing it was not actually Buffy. This time, Faith did not push him away, even if she was still uncertain and uncomfortable with it. The next morning, a hesitant Faith left a sleeping Riley behind. When Faith's body swap became apparent to Riley, he was guilty and extremely uncomfortable with it, knowing that he had in some way cheated on Buffy without even knowing it.
- Maggie Walsh — Maggie Walsh ran The Initiative and taught Riley in combat and military tactics. Riley was always the leader in command for the squads, her favorite in the military. Riley had very strong respect and faith in Walsh and her tactics, never questioning any orders she gave to him. However, Riley's trust in her was broken after Professor Walsh attempted to kill Buffy behind his back, believing her to be a treat to The Initiative. Angry and hurt with her betrayal, Riley walked away from her before she could explain. Riley was in denial of what Professor Walsh had done and refused to fully believe she had tried to kill Buffy. When Maggie Walsh was killed by Adam, Riley was devastated with the news and still described her as a "brilliant woman." Adam would later have a confrontation with Riley and had told him that Professor Walsh was also his "mother" since she had molded Riley into the perfect commando in The Initiative.
- Forrest Gates — Riley and Forrest were friends in college and The Initiative, though both seemed to possess contrasting personalities; Riley was calm and mostly nervous around women while Forrest remained fiercely out-going and enjoyed eyeing on Buffy at the college cafeteria. Forrest became vocal about how Riley's relationship with Buffy would affect his worldview and loyalty to the Initiative, showing disapproval to Buffy's methods with dealing with demons and came to the point that he started to despise Buffy, disintegrating Riley and Forrest's relationship. When told that Professor Walsh had tried to kill Buffy, Forrest claimed he wasn't surprised and that maybe Buffy needed killing. Riley was greatly angered and indignant of his belief that Professor Walsh had been right. Forrest would then quickly accuse Buffy of being the one to have murdered Walsh, due to a chest wound that could of been from a stake. Riley was even more furious at his accusation, nearly coming to blows with him in The Initiative. Being informed of Forrest's death, Riley became too upset to talk about it, leading him into the clutches of Adam. After Forrest had been reanimated as a minion of Adam, Forrest lost all value he had in Riley and effortlessly beat him around until Riley killed his friend, once and for all.
- Graham Miller —
- Xander Harris — Riley seemed to get along with Xander. Riley was bothered, though, when seeing Buffy leave a party with Xander as it looked like she was romantically or sexually involved with him. However, over time, the two bonded. Xander had shared with him Angel's curse and how Buffy triggered it due to his feelings for her, unintentionally making Riley nervous and insecure. Xander attempted to reassure him that Buffy would not sleep with Angel again, much to his gratitude despite his doubts. Xander had also loaned him some of his clothes that were akin to a clown's costume, causing Riley to wonder out loud if he hated him in some way. Despite their friendly relationship, Riley didn't hesitate to knock him out with one punch when he was under Dracula's hypnosis. However, Riley did help Xander move boxes when he moved out of his parent's basement and even admitted to him that he knew Buffy didn't love him. Riley and Xander would also playfully fight with each other while moving Buffy out of her dorm, only to be immediately stopped when Buffy threatened to "break something." Xander, however, became increasingly concerned and disapproving of Riley's unreliable and reckless behavior since he had recklessly took out an entire nest and flaked out on leading the Scooby Gang on patrol under the request of Buffy. Unbeknownst to Riley, Xander had fully supported his relationship with Buffy and explained that someone like him only came once in a lifetime so that was why she shouldn't let him leave. Thanks to him, Buffy had swallowed her pride and ran to ask Riley to stay but by then he had already left. When the two reunited when Riley returned to Sunnydale with his wife, they were at friendly terms and Riley even gave him some advice about taking wedding photos.
- Willow Rosenberg — Before he dated Buffy, Riley saved Willow by pulling her out of the way of a passing car which she ignored due to finding Oz cheating on her. Riley approached Willow while she was enduring the aftermath of Oz's departure. He told Willow he wanted to ask out Buffy and needed to know what she liked. Willow initially refused which Riley respected but she shortly changed her mind and agreed to back him with advice while at a frat party. During that party, one of Dingoes Ate My Baby's songs was played, bothering Willow as it reminded her of Oz. Riley had one of his friends turn it off which Willow was grateful for. When Buffy and Riley started to date, Willow showed an interest into Riley and Buffy's growing relationship, claiming she needed her "vicarious smooches". Riley did show disapproval when he learnt Willow consciously dated a werewolf, believing she was smarter to not date "dangerous guys". Though after witnessing the cruelty the Initiative put Oz through while he was human, Riley changed his mind.
- Parker Abrams — Riley found Parker's woman-chasing ways and constant usage of casual sex distasteful and wrong, being old-fashioned by nature. He believed in committed relationships, not casual. He soon expressed awareness of Buffy's one-night stand with him and dryly claimed her taste in men was terrible. When seeing Parker talk badly about Buffy and vulgarly insulting her as "clingy", Riley was angry with his words about her and wasted no time in punching him in front of everyone.
- Spike — Riley was with The Initiative when Spike was caught and chipped to prevent him from hurting any humans. Riley and his group frequently set out stakes for him after his escape, referring him as Hostile 17. Upon the realization that Buffy and her friends were harboring Spike because of his defenseless state, Riley was angry over it. He could not understand Buffy's mercy towards a vampire because of his military black-and-white outlook on monsters vs. humans. Dracula eventually came to Sunnydale and target Buffy, causing Riley to go to Spike for information. During his visit, Riley made it clear that he didn't trust him and that while Buffy was reluctant to kill a helpless creature, he had no such reservations. After finding Spike in Buffy's bedroom smelling her sweater, Riley became suspicious and realized his hidden feelings for Buffy before anyone else did. Spike manipulated his insecurities by lying over having a close relationship with Buffy and declared that Riley was not her 'type' the same way himself and Angel were, saying she preferred dangerous vampires. Riley became jealous and angry, telling Spike that he did not know Buffy and that only he knew what she needed. When Spike taunted him over not knowing she was at the hospital with her mother, Riley became annoyed and threw the vampire out the door in broad daylight, only giving him a blanket as an afterthought. After Spike had revealed to Buffy he had been allowing vampires to feed on him for the rush, Riley was violently furious and unreasonable. He had not hesitated to brutually beat him, even staking him with a plastic stake. He called Spike out on his attraction to Buffy and warned him to stay away from her or next time he would kill him. Spike had taunted him over his failing relationship with Buffy and how he wasn't the one for her long-term, angering Riley. However, the two formed a tense moment of peace with each other as they drank together, relating over Buffy's lack of mutual feelings towards them. After threatening to kill him again if he ever touched Buffy, Riley left the crypt.
- Angel — Buffy had told Riley the cliff notes of her relationship with Angel, omitting their second try at a relationship and how Angel's soul was removed by sleeping with her. When Xander had elaborated on this, Riley felt nervous and threatened by him, quickly coming to the conclusion that the two would sleep together again when Buffy traveled to L.A. Riley had finally formally met Angel after The Initiative soldiers had jumped him while he was on his way to apologize to Buffy. Riley assumed he was soulless again and that he had slept with Buffy, fueling his anger and jealousy. Angel did nothing to change his conclusion, showing blatant aggression and defiance as Riley tried to stop him from meeting with Buffy. Mutually jealous of each other, Riley and Angel viciously fought against each other in the alley. Angel held nothing back, and was clearly the victor. Riley eventually recovered and caught up to him in Buffy's dorm, ordering him to back away from her. Angel challenged and taunted him, causing them to both exchange blows with each other until Buffy roughly pushed them apart. After he had left, Riley had believed that Angel had won her over and she had chosen him, only for Buffy to correct that she wasn't breaking up with him. Riley was shocked to realize Angel still had his soul, given his overly hostile behavior and how he didn't even hold back in their fight. Riley had then described him as "Mr. Billowy Coat" and "King of Pain" even when he wasn't evil. During a conversation with Dawn, Riley realized that Buffy frequently cried over Angel and got very involved with him. While she had been intending to encourage him, Riley's insecurities over Angel and whether Buffy loved him resurfaced slightly. When his relationship with Buffy started to fall apart, Riley expressed his confusion and desire to understand how Angel (and Dracula) ended up holding such power over her and her choices.
- Rupert Giles — Riley and Giles had a polite and cordial relationship with each other. However, Giles was cautious of his association with The Initiative and warned Buffy to be careful of him. Eventually overcoming this, Riley had "saved" Giles from Dracula's three brides and proceeded to tease him for "nuzzling them to death."
- Dawn Summers — Riley seemed to like Dawn, despite her constant annoyance at how everyone (including him) treated her like a little kid. In a conversation with Buffy, Riley expressed sympathy towards Dawn and that while she didn't understand sacrifices like Buffy did, she was young. When Buffy was furious with Dawn for inviting Harmony inside, Riley again defended her sister, saying it was just an accident. Riley would take care of Dawn when she fell asleep at the hospital for Joyce, and took her out under the request of Buffy to keep her distracted. Riley encouraged her that her mother would be fine and Dawn expressed her support of his relationship with her sister, mentioning that Buffy cried less with him than she did with Angel, making him much healthier for her. Unknowingly, Dawn enhanced Riley's insecurities that Buffy wasn't in love with him.
Behind the Scenes
- He was portrayed by Marc Blucas.
- Riley was introduced in the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a recurring character in 7 episodes of that season before being promoted to the regular cast in "Doomed", appearing in 20 out of its 22 episodes, being absent in "Living Conditions" and "The Harsh Light of Day" in his recurring span. He then continued as regular in season five for the first 10 episodes before his departure in "Into the Woods" where he was taken out of the regular billing. He then made on final appearance on the series in "As You Were" with Marc Blucas credited as a "Special Guest Star". He overall has appeared in 31 episodes.
- Marc Blucas was asked how the character was described to him during the audition process, he replied that "They said that Riley is a nice, charming guy, and there's going to be some kind of dichotomy, some kind of double role going on. But that was never really specified."
- Whedon defended the character of Riley Finn, "The important thing for us was to find a character that was the anti-Angel and to have Buffy go through something very different, part of which was the question, 'How do I get over Angel?' That was the same thing the audience was going through. We knew it wasn't going to be easy and it was very hard trying to find somebody. But Marc [Blucas] has a quality that I love very much: he has sort of an un-David-like, firm, strong, trustworthy quality. I always think of him as Gary Cooper." During the fifth season, writer/co-executive producer, Marti Noxon, noted that they were making Riley a more tortured complex character, "He's starting to fray around the edges. That's very compelling to me - that this straight guy is starting to get a little strange."
- Actor Christian Kane also auditioned for Riley Finn. Kane went on to play the role of Lindsey McDonald on the spin-off show Angel. Kane says he played his audition for Riley "perhaps a little less than wholesome", which he feels resulted in Joss Whedon later casting him as a darker character.
- Owed to its nature of genetic super-soldier and his patriotic comportment, Riley seems to be a tribute to the super-hero Captain America.
|The Riley Finn article has a Photo Gallery.|
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
|Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 4|
|Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 5|
|Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 6|
|Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 7|
Angel Season 1
- "Sanctuary" (Only mentioned)
Buffy Season 8
- Time of Your Life
- Twilight, Part One (Only mentioned)
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Riley
Buffy Season 9
Buffy Season 10
- New Rules, Part Two (Only mentioned)
- I Wish, Part One (Only mentioned)
- Old Demons, Part Three (Only mentioned)
- In Pieces on the Ground, Part One (Only mentioned)
- In Pieces on the Ground, Part Two (Only mentioned)
- Own It, Part Four
Angel and Faith Season 10
- Where The River Meets The Sea, Part Four (only in photo)
- Lost and Found, Part One (only in flashback)
- Lost and Found, Part Two (only in flashback)
- Lost and Found, Part Three
- Lost and Found, Part Four
- Lost and Found, Part Five
Buffy Season 11