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Riley lights up Season 4

telperion66

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Joined
Mar 7, 2018
Messages
418
Age
35
Location
York, England (Teabag Central)
Now, as many of you know, my favourite Buffy season is the first one, followed by the second and then the third. I care little for the later seasons on re-watch.

However, just dipping into season four of late, I am struck by how Riley truly lights up the season.

Clearly, the season has a much "brighter" overall feel and look to the preceding seasons, and while this may not totally be a positive, in Riley's case it really is.

He shines bright in the early parts of the season and in my opinion is a big plus point for what was the new Buffy "dynamic" of season four.

What are your opinions of how Riley fits in, and how he contributes to season four, and the latter seasons until his departure?

What impact do you think he had?
 
Joan the Vampire Slayer
Joan the Vampire Slayer
I like Riley early on and agree that his presence in Buffy's life is positive...until it isn't, of course.

AlphaFoxtrot

Scooby
Joined
Sep 11, 2017
Messages
1,976
Age
40
I can see that. Season 4 is, if you look at it, something of a resting period for the series, which to be fair, is how Freshman year of college turns out, and college in general for that matter.
 

Octavia

My arse is not pansy!
Joined
Jan 20, 2008
Messages
7,358
Location
Australia
Sineya
He brings the 'All American Boy' into the mix, making collage look like the ideal place to go after the hell of high school. Its the shiney happy honeymoon period of infatuation that Buffy didn't really get with Angel. Riley later shows how the reality of the world he lives in corrupts even the prettiest of perfect people.
 

DeadlyDuo

Scooby
Joined
Jul 29, 2016
Messages
9,611
Age
31
I think one of the problems with Riley is that he gets outshone by Spike and Angel in every scene he shares with them, and given that the three of them are Buffy's main love interests throughout the series, naturally Riley always comes in last in fans' opinion. Given that being Buffy's "normal" boyfriend is his main role in the series, he's basically already at a disadvantage.

At the beginning of Season 4, he does genuinely seem like a nice guy, especially in the scene where Buffy knocks the books on his head, but making him the leader of an elite military force kind of pushes the suspension of disbelief to its limit if its given any real thought. In fact the whole initiative storyline suffers from this.

However, the real issue with Riley for me is his behaviour towards Buffy. Riley is actually a bit of a jerk towards her throughout Season 5, especially in Into the Woods, which retroactively makes some of his less than stellar season 4 behaviour such as The Yoko Factor more questionable. It's kind of telling that the moment the power dynamic changes between them (Riley's no longer in charge at the initiative, no longer the TA in Buffy's class, no longer has his super soldier abilities etc), basically the moment Riley is brought down to "normal", he can't handle it, and he becomes almost obsessed with Buffy "needing" him. Given how Riley was behaving towards Buffy, her missing the helicopter was the best thing that could've happened to her. Due to Riley's ultimatum that was essentially "Give me a reason to stay or it's your fault if I leave", if Buffy had stopped Riley leaving, she would be trapping herself in the Briley relationship because she would've prevented Riley from re-joining the military therefore she "owes" him to make the relationship work even though she's not happy in it. When taking Season 5 into account, it retroactively makes Season 4 look like the "honeymoon period" for the Briley relationship. Episodes like The Yoko Factor show Riley's nice guy mask starting to slip whilst Season 5 is his true colours starting to show.

This is why I have so much issue with Xander's speech in Into the Woods. Buffy has called Riley out on his behaviour, she's refused to give into his ultimatum , she's basically stood up for herself and gone "this is me, either deal with it or go but I am not being dragged into your issues", yet Xander practically tells her that she SHOULD put up with and tolerate Riley's unacceptable behaviour because he is "the one that comes along once in a life time" and Buffy listens and believes him. What was an empowering moment for Buffy (and arguably women everywhere who have been in a relationship where their partner is trying to make themselves indispensable) is essentially kicked aside for "you should totally be with this guy and change for him because he can't accept you for who you are". It's an awful message to send to the audience.

Had the writers actually "gone there" with the Briley relationship, and shown how easily it is to get sucked in without even realising it, then I think Riley could've been a really powerful character to have on the show because he had everyone fooled, including the audience, with his nice guy act. His less than stellar moments seemed OOC which is why he's so easily forgiven but that is actually the real Riley.

In some ways I view Briley as worse than Spuffy. Whilst Spuffy is awful and unhealthy for both participants, at least it is honest about it and Buffy KNOWS it's not a good thing even though she chooses to continue engaging in it. However, with Briley, Buffy kind of sleepwalks into it without realising and it's only because Spike showed Buffy what Riley was up to (because of his own selfish reasons) that Buffy called Riley out on his behaviour. Even then, Riley is trying to blame her for it, saying he wanted to "even the score" because Buffy "let" Dracula bite (despite her making it clear it was against her will), he then talks about how the vampire whores made him feel "needed", something which buffy doesn't do- again blaming her for his behaviour.

Season 6 Buffy would be Riley's perfect Buffy because she is an absolute wreck that season and that vulnerability would enable him to manoeuvre himself into a position where Buffy becomes dependant on him. Riley could've been the real villain of Season 6 and Tara could've been the ones to spot the signs that something wasn't right within the Briley relationship due to her background with her family. Buffy rising out of her state of despair would be paired with her kicking Riley to the kerb as he would've wanted to keep her in that depressed state because it benefitted him to do so.
 

thrasherpix

Scooby
Joined
Mar 13, 2016
Messages
3,906
Age
39
I liked him for his dry sense of humor and being unusually nice. Maybe it was just so different. I excused his bad behavior in the last part of the season because of drug withdrawals and general trauma.

The Briley was kind of ruined for me because it just felt to me like Buffy thought she had to be with a man or there was something wrong with her, and it was even like she was trying to create excuses not to be with him (I liked how Willow mocked her with "run while you still can" as Buffy describes him as perfect but she doesn't feel right without the pain). So it was like she was with him because she was obligated to. I don't think it was the intent of the writing but it's just how it felt to me. Some of Riley's lines to Buffy don't help, though I loved the two of them in Hush (hmm, so maybe if Riley just shut up it would've been better... :p )

But I still liked him as a character.
 

RDHWesley

Odd Individual
Joined
Jan 27, 2019
Messages
135
Location
UK
Riley as the 'normal joe' boyfriend is completely diminished by the fact that he's a highly trained soldier who was experimented on by a mad scientist to hunt down demons. I think Riley had potential because he genuinely is kind of alright in the first few episodes of Season 4, but as soon as his secret is out, he drops down a peg or twelve. He's just a bit bland in the rest of Season 4, before becoming unbearable (personal take) in the next season.
 

KaitKat

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Aug 9, 2021
Messages
266
Age
29
I don’t like Riley’s character and I don’t think Angel, Riley, or Spike were Buffy’s match. With that said I appreciate Season 4 and Riley for the fact that it wasn’t all doom and gloom. He was a nice break in between Angel and Spike and Season 4 was a nice break between how dark Season 3 was and how heavy Season 5 is.
 

Doppelgangers

Townie
Joined
Apr 19, 2020
Messages
10
He gives off a sort of Malcolm Reynolds vibe with some of his lines. I mean, I hear him say the lines and they just sound like something Mal would say.
 

Ihamze94

Townie
Joined
Nov 28, 2021
Messages
30
Age
27
I love Riley! I really enjoyed season 4 a lot because of him and it had hurt when he had left, especially when he had thought she had let him go. Sorry but I think the show had gone downhill hill after that. It was all doom and misery, especially in season 6. When Riley came back i had realised just how much I had missed the character. Buffy was happy with him longer than she had with Angel or Spike, he had given her a sense of normalcy and that's beautiful. People have asked who Buffy loves more, Angel or Spike but the question should have been Angel or Riley( although I'm pretty sure it's angel as well) because she loved Riley more than Spike.
 

Ihamze94

Townie
Joined
Nov 28, 2021
Messages
30
Age
27
Buffy may not have loved Riley as much as Angel but she definitely loved him more than Spike.
 

Ihamze94

Townie
Joined
Nov 28, 2021
Messages
30
Age
27
I think one of the problems with Riley is that he gets outshone by Spike and Angel in every scene he shares with them, and given that the three of them are Buffy's main love interests throughout the series, naturally Riley always comes in last in fans' opinion. Given that being Buffy's "normal" boyfriend is his main role in the series, he's basically already at a disadvantage.

At the beginning of Season 4, he does genuinely seem like a nice guy, especially in the scene where Buffy knocks the books on his head, but making him the leader of an elite military force kind of pushes the suspension of disbelief to its limit if its given any real thought. In fact the whole initiative storyline suffers from this.

However, the real issue with Riley for me is his behaviour towards Buffy. Riley is actually a bit of a jerk towards her throughout Season 5, especially in Into the Woods, which retroactively makes some of his less than stellar season 4 behaviour such as The Yoko Factor more questionable. It's kind of telling that the moment the power dynamic changes between them (Riley's no longer in charge at the initiative, no longer the TA in Buffy's class, no longer has his super soldier abilities etc), basically the moment Riley is brought down to "normal", he can't handle it, and he becomes almost obsessed with Buffy "needing" him. Given how Riley was behaving towards Buffy, her missing the helicopter was the best thing that could've happened to her. Due to Riley's ultimatum that was essentially "Give me a reason to stay or it's your fault if I leave", if Buffy had stopped Riley leaving, she would be trapping herself in the Briley relationship because she would've prevented Riley from re-joining the military therefore she "owes" him to make the relationship work even though she's not happy in it. When taking Season 5 into account, it retroactively makes Season 4 look like the "honeymoon period" for the Briley relationship. Episodes like The Yoko Factor show Riley's nice guy mask starting to slip whilst Season 5 is his true colours starting to show.

This is why I have so much issue with Xander's speech in Into the Woods. Buffy has called Riley out on his behaviour, she's refused to give into his ultimatum , she's basically stood up for herself and gone "this is me, either deal with it or go but I am not being dragged into your issues", yet Xander practically tells her that she SHOULD put up with and tolerate Riley's unacceptable behaviour because he is "the one that comes along once in a life time" and Buffy listens and believes him. What was an empowering moment for Buffy (and arguably women everywhere who have been in a relationship where their partner is trying to make themselves indispensable) is essentially kicked aside for "you should totally be with this guy and change for him because he can't accept you for who you are". It's an awful message to send to the audience.

Had the writers actually "gone there" with the Briley relationship, and shown how easily it is to get sucked in without even realising it, then I think Riley could've been a really powerful character to have on the show because he had everyone fooled, including the audience, with his nice guy act. His less than stellar moments seemed OOC which is why he's so easily forgiven but that is actually the real Riley.

In some ways I view Briley as worse than Spuffy. Whilst Spuffy is awful and unhealthy for both participants, at least it is honest about it and Buffy KNOWS it's not a good thing even though she chooses to continue engaging in it. However, with Briley, Buffy kind of sleepwalks into it without realising and it's only because Spike showed Buffy what Riley was up to (because of his own selfish reasons) that Buffy called Riley out on his behaviour. Even then, Riley is trying to blame her for it, saying he wanted to "even the score" because Buffy "let" Dracula bite (despite her making it clear it was against her will), he then talks about how the vampire whores made him feel "needed", something which buffy doesn't do- again blaming her for his behaviour.

Season 6 Buffy would be Riley's perfect Buffy because she is an absolute wreck that season and that vulnerability would enable him to manoeuvre himself into a position where Buffy becomes dependant on him. Riley could've been the real villain of Season 6 and Tara could've been the ones to spot the signs that something wasn't right within the Briley relationship due to her background with her family. Buffy rising out of her state of despair would be paired with her kicking Riley to the kerb as he would've wanted to keep her in that depressed state because it benefitted him to do so.
Disagree with you. Xander was right to say that to Buffy. Buffy was freezing Riley out, had treated him as a convenience and that's not OK. if it was the other way around, if Riley was the one who was connecting to everyone but her and had only thought about her when climbing into bed to feel good, fans would be defending her. They've both made mistakes but Buffy had needed to understand that she had to be present in a adult relationship. If she didn't feel the same way about Riley then the kind thing to do would be to let him go but if she did and she's done letting her issues get in the way then she should try and stop him from leaving and she did. She ran like her life depended on it. She had obviously loved him and the break up was hard for her. Xander cares about her, saw how happy she was with Riley and didn't want her to do something she'd regret. He'd just wanted her to make a decision and stick with it. Fans have the complete wrong idea about Riley. It was never about wanting Buffy to make him feel like a man, it was about wanting to feel appreciated and that your partner was in it with you. The stupid "he was threatened by her and wanted her to be helpless" theories Riley haters have couldn't make less sense. Keeping her depressed? Sounds nothing like him. That's something a desperate stalker like Spike would do to get some hot slayer sex. Buffy was depressed and spike had made it worse for her by manipulating her into thinking she came back wrong and keeping her away from her friends by saying she doesn't belong to them. It was thanks to Riley that she had the confidence to start making better decisions for herself. His understanding and empathetic nature meant that he'd help people feel better about themselves, has done it many times in the show.
 
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