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Riley vs. Spike

HushSarah

Scorpio Slayer
Joined
Mar 8, 2006
Messages
58
Age
34
Location
California
Just finished my re watch of Season 4 and it keeps dawning on me why I always preferred Riley for Buffy more than Spike and yes, even Angel.

Spike was a prominent character in S4, his character more or less introduced The Initiative in full view. One could argue the Scoobies wouldn't have known if Spike never told them, but I believe there would have been another way if the writers actually had allowed one, but no, Spike was used as a plot device to carry the rest of the season. Had to be him, because reasons.

Now, for Riley, this guy gets a lot of hate, why? Stuff I heard over the years really confuse me and they are never really explained. He's boring. He's human. He's not Angel or Spike. No super powers. Buffy can take him in a battle and win. He's a slightly but not much better version of Xander. He's just a pretty boy, a Gary Stu love interest. I heard it all, and they sound like excuses. But to me, Riley was the most personal character on the show, not just because he was a human who was flawed, like Buffy is. But he was someone who always stood by what was right and owned up to being controlled and brainwashed by the people he called family. It was all he knew and he survived. It flusters me that he doesn't get enough credit for any of that.

To me, he seemed more closer to Buffy than Xander, sure you can say the latter because they are both men, but when we look at it for the bigger picture, Buffy always felt closer. The calling to do what's right. Protect the innocent at all costs. Living a double life. Self-sacrifice. Friends who follow their lead. Get knocked down but rise up stronger than before. They were too similar, supposing that was where the boring part would come in because he was a mirror. As for who Buffy really is, wouldn't she want an equal version of herself to take on the world with? It just seemed like she never really appreciated what Riley gave her and more. I haven't seen a man more selfless. Even Angel, as great as he had been early on, had his irredeemable moments, calling their relationship outrightly a "freak show," and the when he left Sunnydale.

Season 5 revealed Buffy's selfishness toward Riley's value. It was sad when he left, I hated the writers for building him up to be this virile, strong provider only to tear him down to push Spike right in his place. Riley courted Buffy, taking an active interest in who she is, not only as the slayer but Buffy at heart, while Spike always stalked her, had cult shrines to her, played on her emotions, used her, spat her out, dumped her to a corner, turned her friends against her, literally raped her body and her mind. When he got his soul it wasn't a redemption, it felt like another way Spike can manipulate and control Buffy at her most vulnerable like he always did. There is that guy, the player, the opportunist, that was Spike, and Joss really rammed his character against Buffy. Riley was the man she should have been with, this proved more evident in "As You Were." The entire episode was Buffy stuck in jealously and regret while finding out about Spike's newest betrayal. Too much damage was done, she couldn't go back in time but she can still save her soul and that's why she ended her toxic relationship with Spike by the end of the episode.

My question to everyone is why? Why was Spike pushed so much to be Buffy's one and only but never truly earned that place in the story? There were so many more stories to tell with Riley. For those who hated him, I'll ask, why? There was no reason. One cannot argue that the show had felt lost after the UC Sunnydale college years, that was the last hurray for great, creative and innovative stories, while Spike played the pratfall manipulator antagonist, but we are meant to just accept he truly loved Buffy underneath it all?
 
thrasherpix
thrasherpix
I plan to tackle this tonight or tomorrow, but also wanted to add to those who hate Xander for Angel envy, jealousy, being an entitled jerk at times but loving Spike so much who was all these things even worse: why?
Joined
Feb 23, 2019
Messages
610
Black Thorn
Now, for Riley, this guy gets a lot of hate, why?
I liked Riley, I thought he was very good for her, my issue came with season 5. Riley was refusing to get medical care because he thought Buffy wanted a guy with superpowers, that ticked me off a bit. I get that he didn't trust the initiative but he was literally dying, he was being so ridiculous. After that, it always seemed like he was trying to prove something by putting himself in danger and insisting he should go with Buffy. The bit where I just started to hate him, is when he was being bitten by vampires as a subconscious way to get back at Buffy. He couldn't stand that she was stronger than he was, and also the fact he stayed with Buffy despite thinking she doesn't love him yet she told him she did all the time. I really did like him in season 4 though, I thought he was a really nice guy.

Why was Spike pushed so much to be Buffy's one and only but never truly earned that place in the story?
Spike was and still is a popular character, he was entertaining and made good comic relief. Also, SMG and JM have amazing chemistry and it would really have been a shame to lose that.
Spike played the pratfall manipulator antagonist, but we are meant to just accept he truly loved Buffy underneath it all?
This is still a big discussion on these boards. You see a range of different opinions. But most people believe that Spike only began loving her/being obsessed with her in season 5 but there are hints of a sexual interest before this. Again, Spike is a romantic, he's 'love's bitch', seeing him fall hard and fast for someone he can't have didn't seem particularly strange to me. It was also interesting to see how being a vampire changed how he displayed affection.
Spike's love for Buffy would never have been not toxic, the idea of someone who is good at heart, and someone who is evil would never work well in a relationship. It is a popular and entertaining trope though. People like watching dramatic stuff, a perfectly functional relationship doesn't always make good TV.
 
thrasherpix
thrasherpix
What cracks me up is those who adore Spike for loving Buffy the moment he saw her at the Bronze while hating on Angel for "grooming" Buffy, because Spike's attempt to murder her is so much more morally pure :-D

DeadlyDuo

Scooby
Joined
Jul 29, 2016
Messages
6,903
Age
29
@HushSarah Spike did not "literally rape [Buffy's] body and mind. There was the AR which was an awful choice of storytelling to use but no actual rape. THe balcony scene was murky but wasn't rape.

Season 5 is the start of the Dawnverse. I consider the true canon to be Seasons 1-4. Spike did not love Buffy before he woke up from his sex dream. The writers were pushing Spuffy and felt the need to try and take out Sprusilla in the process. The writers tried to retcon their break up to be all about Spuffy when that wasn't what it was about at all. They then brought Dru back literally so Spike could reject her for Buffy.

Spike was a good boyfriend to Dru yet remained his own individual character. Spuffy turned him into Buffy's lapdog.

In regards to Riley, half his problem is that he's stuck between Angel and Spike as Buffy's love interests. Angel was played as Buffy's true love but they tragically couldn't be together because of his curse, and Spike is so much more dynamic than Riley is so he's at a disadvantage there.

The other half of Riley's issue is Season 5. He's a bit of a dickhead to Buffy in that Season and it retroactively makes some of his less stellar Season 4 behaviour (eg The Yoko Factor) seem worse than it did initially. Riley definitely shows some red flag behaviour towards Buffy in Season 5, particularly in Into The Woods. Season 6 Buffy would be Riley's perfect Buffy.

Riley is generally okay during Season 4, aside from certain instances, but I think he suffers with the Initiative storyline. It's pushing believability that Riley is the leader of an elite group of soldiers despite him and most of them still being in college. Had they just kept him as a normal college student then I think he would've been given a pass by the fandom, however he really gets a bee in his bonnet over Buffy being stronger than him, particularly when the power dynamic between them shifts. It's no coincidence that Season 5 is when Riley's bad behaviour starts showing up given that the Initiative is gone and Buffy drops out of college.
 

Anyanka Bunny Slayer

Hail Hydra 💀
Joined
Dec 17, 2015
Messages
6,582
Black Thorn
I didn't have that much of a problem with Riley...not until he discovered Buffy was the Slayer, and much stronger than him. Then came the insecurity...and the guilt trips he tried to lay on her. Wuss.
 
DeadlyDuo
DeadlyDuo
Exactly.
HushSarah
HushSarah
A man with a strong heart isn't a wuss. Season 5 was badly handled by Joss. They screwed his character so much for other characters that had more screen time than they deserve. Dawn, Spike, Tara.

WillowFromBuffy

Buffering...
Joined
May 11, 2019
Messages
335
Age
31
I dunno.... George Lazenby effect?

The fans did not like RIley. He had to follow Angel, and he is not a typical adorkable, quip-y Whedon-character. I don't think it was a choice of Riley or Spike. Riley had to go to appease the fans. Spike was a popular character, and he was male and he had sex appeal.

I like Riley. He is the only boyfriend who felt like a proper part of the gang. I think the writers did their best to do right by him. I am actually impressed by how much they stuck to their horses with him.
 
HushSarah
HushSarah
Season 5 is proof they didn't really as he was phased out in the lamest way. Every story he had in each episode until his departure tore down the heart of his character.

Athene

Scooby
Joined
Apr 8, 2017
Messages
1,885
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19
Sineya
Briley was definitely a lot more interesting that people give it credit for, it explores the price of Buffy’s double life a lot more effectively than Spuffy or Bangel did because Riley is actually the light to Buffy’s dark.
 

HushSarah

Scorpio Slayer
Joined
Mar 8, 2006
Messages
58
Age
34
Location
California
"As You Were" was a turning point for Buffy claiming back her life and regaining her calling. Season 6 was a depression soup but after that episode aired it was Riley who breathed actual life into Buffy again. Spike's whole vibe continued dragging it down. I loved this quote from The Buffy Phenomenon:

We see a Buffy who has sadly turned into the very thing she found so strange about the Doublemeat Palace at first: the near-emotionless worker who stares blankly around and does her job on autopilot. What does Riley provide? He provides a sense of urgent necessity and a reason to jump into action. When Buffy spends a moment to consider whether to help Riley or not, I think it causes some immediate self-reflection. Buffy's been called into action again and it allows her, for the first time since her resurrection, to feel like herself again -- like she has a purpose; like the person she used to be. This is what the title of episode is in reference to.
 

telperion66

Potential
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Mar 7, 2018
Messages
275
Age
32
Location
York, England
I feel almost guilty answering this question, as its been ages since I watched series' 4 through 7 with any regularity.

I will say that Riley grew on me, a lot. Its a damn shame he left the show. He was good for Buffy and I thought he got better with time.

It was unfortunate to see Spike's character get watered down with his constant pandering to Buffy. His romantic feelings for her I felt belittled his character overall.
 
HushSarah
HushSarah
He sure gets a lot of undeserved hate.

Anyanka Bunny Slayer

Hail Hydra 💀
Joined
Dec 17, 2015
Messages
6,582
Black Thorn
A man with a strong heart isn't a wuss. Season 5 was badly handled by Joss. They screwed his character so much for other characters that had more screen time than they
deserve. Dawn, Spike, Tara.
Uh, yeah. He was a wuss. I don't know where you got the idea that he had a strong heart. Anyone who willingly allows a vampire to feed on them is far from strong.
 
HushSarah
HushSarah
Guess he shouldn't do anything to understand his girlfriend. At least he tried.

thrasherpix

Scooby
Joined
Mar 13, 2016
Messages
2,649
Age
36
Riley was not perfect, but neither are the others. It's almost as if characters are supposed to have flaws to make a story interesting and give them room to develop. ;)

And I am on board with Team Riley in season 4, and I recognize a lot of good things about him, from recognizing Willow's pain and trying to help with it unlike her actual friends to even helping the Lesbian Alliance. The important part being these aren't people he has a personal interest in at the time but he still helps them and seems to have genuine empathy for them.

While he does have a problem with Oz at first, I can't fault him for it because he doesn't know Oz or have the benefit we have of watching the first 3 seasons, and once he sees Oz tortured he mutinies, which I know for him was no light decision and shows what an incredibly wonderful and brave person he actually is (trying to save Oz was, for him, even more brave than fighting demons.)

But I will say Riley becomes something of a jerk toward the end of season 4 and I understand Buffy's (and many fans) irritation with him. HOWEVER, I take that almost everything he believed in has been destroyed for him plus drug withdrawals into account (offhand, it's the only time drug withdrawals actually seem realistic rather than the afterschool special way of usually depicting drugs and drug addiction that plagues the series).

And as much as I'd want to slap Angel and Riley both if that were real life, it was still cool to see them fight...and it's a better set up than a great many of other fights over jealousy and other romantic troubles that get set up on ATS and BTVS, IMO. Besides, I don't remember the other characters being paragons of virtue then either, particularly in The Yoko Factor (also Buffy when she goes after Faith on Angel, though I also see why she has compelling reasons--not to be confused with being justified--to act as she does and cut her slack as I do Riley), let alone other seasons that I won't bring up here.

The point being not that this excuses Riley, but that I can still see the good man he is beneath his flaws just as I can love other characters despite their mistakes and chronic flaws. Riley is rather benign, though at the same time we don't know him as we do the other characters, and I can understand why some just don't see the chemistry there, either.



Now in Season 5 I don't care for him However, I do feel that he was character assassinated by the writers to put Spike into the picture. I know some say that signs of this side of him were shown in Season 4, but most of that strikes me as when he was in withdrawal and his world was crumbling, I don't recall it from before...in fact, he seemed to love Buffy's incredible strength (I recall one ep started which turned out a military exercise, which may or may not where she accidentally hurt his ribs, and he says everybody loves her while then panning to Walsh showing her looking deeply troubled).

I personally explain much of season 5 (Riley's behavior, Buffy's, Spike's, etc) as memory tampering and mind control by the monks who wanted Spike as a backup guardian for Dawn the Key as Glory would never suspect Spike of protecting Dawn in case Buffy was killed (whereas Riley would be about the first place Glory would look for Dawn otherwise), so the monks tweaked Riley's character assassination to happen.

That said, even with that headcanon firmly in place, I do get mad in Into the Woods with Riley's unreasonable ultimatum to Buffy (even if he had to go like right then), and then Xander's speech after (I'm an avid Xander defender but even I'm wanting to yell at him to shut up then). If they had to do that then I'd rather they "take some time apart" so that the last part of Buffy running after him didn't happen, nor Xander's patronizing and downright wrong speech, and given Riley's work it would've been believable that the proto-Spuffy happened (especially given as it appears the writers wanted it to appear as mostly Buffy's fault anyway). Maybe I should find yet another reason to hate those monks through this episode...



As for Season 6...I'm just not much of a season 6 fan anyway as I see it as some very interesting ideas executed very badly (as opposed to "not liking it dark and realistic" of which I'd say other seasons are closer to realistic and/or darker than s6) with it seeming to just want to make the characters, especially Buffy, suffer. But my opinion aside, I can see why he gets a lot of hate here. Having Riley, and his wife, seem so perfect, was just another crucifixion nail to torment Buffy with, so of course it's easy to hate him there.

Though that said...here's a very interesting take on As You Were (one that I think not only makes sense, but adds yet one more stalker in Buffy's life):


Sample text:

After an interlude to discuss Buffy's meaty reek, we're back at Revello, where Spike pops out from behind a tree to ask Buffy for some lovin'. They then get their naughty on right there in the front yard, because heaven forbid Buffy let Dawn down by having sex with Spike in her bedroom; it's far gentler on little Dawnie's subconscious if she happens to wonder what's taking Buffy so long, looks out a window, and sees her sister takin' it from the undead against a tree.

Moreover, wasn't Buffy just in the graveyard? If we needed a Spuffy sex scene here, why didn't they get horizontal on a tombstone or something?

Instead, here they are, boinking like bunnies in a well-lit area next to the mailbox in front of God and the neighbors and...

And hey, wait... what terribly interesting camera angles! Why do we keep looking at this scene from way the hell down the street, like we were some sort of former Initiative member who'd come to the first place he'd think of to look for his ex-girlfriend?

Did I say that out loud?

And Riley doesn't show up at Revello, does he? Doesn't come by the Magic Box, doesn't go to Xander and Anya's, doesn't knock on Giles' darkened door. Nope, straight to the Doublemeat.

How'd he know she worked there?

Man, it's like he's been following her or something.

Did he maybe ask Xander, Dawn, or Willow? No, he did not. We are expressly told in a later chunk of dialogue that he called them, left a message, but did not actually speak to them until he saw them at Buffy's house. Moreover, we're given a Xander line that lets us know that Riley told Xander and Willow in the message that he was married.

Nice of him to tell them right away, huh?

So, here we are in the Doublemeat, and Riley's just about to enter, having deduced with his psychic powers that Buffy must work there.
Anyway, though are my late night thoughts summed up in case you were actually trying to understand the thinking (as opposed to firing shots in another tedious shipper war).
 

katmobile

Scooby
Joined
Jun 17, 2018
Messages
708
Age
47
Riley was not perfect, but neither are the others. It's almost as if characters are supposed to have flaws to make a story interesting and give them room to develop. ;)

And I am on board with Team Riley in season 4, and I recognize a lot of good things about him, from recognizing Willow's pain and trying to help with it unlike her actual friends to even helping the Lesbian Alliance. The important part being these aren't people he has a personal interest in at the time but he still helps them and seems to have genuine empathy for them.

While he does have a problem with Oz at first, I can't fault him for it because he doesn't know Oz or have the benefit we have of watching the first 3 seasons, and once he sees Oz tortured he mutinies, which I know for him was no light decision and shows what an incredibly wonderful and brave person he actually is (trying to save Oz was, for him, even more brave than fighting demons.)

But I will say Riley becomes something of a jerk toward the end of season 4 and I understand Buffy's (and many fans) irritation with him. HOWEVER, I take that almost everything he believed in has been destroyed for him plus drug withdrawals into account (offhand, it's the only time drug withdrawals actually seem realistic rather than the afterschool special way of usually depicting drugs and drug addiction that plagues the series).

And as much as I'd want to slap Angel and Riley both if that were real life, it was still cool to see them fight...and it's a better set up than a great many of other fights over jealousy and other romantic troubles that get set up on ATS and BTVS, IMO. Besides, I don't remember the other characters being paragons of virtue then either, particularly in The Yoko Factor (also Buffy when she goes after Faith on Angel, though I also see why she has compelling reasons--not to be confused with being justified--to act as she does and cut her slack as I do Riley), let alone other seasons that I won't bring up here.

The point being not that this excuses Riley, but that I can still see the good man he is beneath his flaws just as I can love other characters despite their mistakes and chronic flaws. Riley is rather benign, though at the same time we don't know him as we do the other characters, and I can understand why some just don't see the chemistry there, either.



Now in Season 5 I don't care for him However, I do feel that he was character assassinated by the writers to put Spike into the picture. I know some say that signs of this side of him were shown in Season 4, but most of that strikes me as when he was in withdrawal and his world was crumbling, I don't recall it from before...in fact, he seemed to love Buffy's incredible strength (I recall one ep started which turned out a military exercise, which may or may not where she accidentally hurt his ribs, and he says everybody loves her while then panning to Walsh showing her looking deeply troubled).

I personally explain much of season 5 (Riley's behavior, Buffy's, Spike's, etc) as memory tampering and mind control by the monks who wanted Spike as a backup guardian for Dawn the Key as Glory would never suspect Spike of protecting Dawn in case Buffy was killed (whereas Riley would be about the first place Glory would look for Dawn otherwise), so the monks tweaked Riley's character assassination to happen.

That said, even with that headcanon firmly in place, I do get mad in Into the Woods with Riley's unreasonable ultimatum to Buffy (even if he had to go like right then), and then Xander's speech after (I'm an avid Xander defender but even I'm wanting to yell at him to shut up then). If they had to do that then I'd rather they "take some time apart" so that the last part of Buffy running after him didn't happen, nor Xander's patronizing and downright wrong speech, and given Riley's work it would've been believable that the proto-Spuffy happened (especially given as it appears the writers wanted it to appear as mostly Buffy's fault anyway). Maybe I should find yet another reason to hate those monks through this episode...



As for Season 6...I'm just not much of a season 6 fan anyway as I see it as some very interesting ideas executed very badly (as opposed to "not liking it dark and realistic" of which I'd say other seasons are closer to realistic and/or darker than s6) with it seeming to just want to make the characters, especially Buffy, suffer. But my opinion aside, I can see why he gets a lot of hate here. Having Riley, and his wife, seem so perfect, was just another crucifixion nail to torment Buffy with, so of course it's easy to hate him there.

Though that said...here's a very interesting take on As You Were (one that I think not only makes sense, but adds yet one more stalker in Buffy's life):


Sample text:



Anyway, though are my late night thoughts summed up in case you were actually trying to understand the thinking (as opposed to firing shots in another tedious shipper war).
Thank you for that - I have to admit that's just made the theory that makes more sense than what we were presented with and justifies with reason with the text list. Seriously the 'yeah I'll take this as my canon' instead is fairly short and this one is pretty much there alongside the one which points out that logically it makes far more sense that Xander covered for Dawn on the fly and Sweet knew he was lying and accepted to save face and because he knew he'd done a satisfying amount of damage already.

The only thing I'd add is that Buffy probably knew Spike wasn't the doctor but still saw his collaboration in the scheme however minor as the wake up call she needed to stop seeing him as it still proved to her that Spike was uncaring about the moral implications of his actions when it came to people he wasn't invested in. She did want to end things as the moral ambiguity was tearing her apart but she needed something concrete she could tell herself that he did that and it was bad to strengthen her resolve enough to stay away from him.

It also makes sense of Riley's decision to entrust Spike's fate to Buffy's a year later. Either he thinks she's got the message about who Spike is enough or he sees that he was wrong and is attempting to atone to them both.
 
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Heljar

Townie
Joined
Aug 6, 2019
Messages
27
Age
44
I'm rewatching Buffy and Angel now. I remember almost cheering when Buffy didn't catch his plane first time I watched it. I think the biggest problem with Riley is the actor. Everyone on Buffy are great actors who manages to showcase different aspects of their character. He's just so bland and boring with the same expression whatever situation he's in. Take the scene where Riley asks Willow for help with seducing Buffy. You can clearly see that Willow is hurt in that scene because of Oz, but she stills kinda wants to help Buffy find a new boyfriend so she begrudingly helps out Riley. Riley almost shows no emotion, he's just reading off a script. I think Riley could have been an interesting character with a better actor.
 

katmobile

Scooby
Joined
Jun 17, 2018
Messages
708
Age
47
It's always hard to tell if a character is a misfire because of writing or acting IMO. Honestly don't know.

Vincent Katheisner proved that sometimes even if with ME it's writing as he was great playing an arsehole but making him somewhat sympathetic in Mad Men.

The writers have admitted themselves they didn't know how to write Riley and to be honest I see a lot of paralells with the character of Aiden in Sex and the City. My husband loathed both and part of the reason for that is they had the ineviable task being the guy after the guy who was regarded by many fans as the main protagonist's one true partnership. I think there is a tendancy to write a rather vanilla character who was more defined by being NOT the previous guy rather than having much that is interesting about them personally. Riley also had the story role of being the person who made us care about the intiative and I think for a new character that was a heavy burden that would have required a very well written and acted character to have pulled off especially with the main anatagonist having to killed off because the actress quit.

Marc Blucas isn't James Marsters, had more chemistry with Aly than Sarah and had some truly terrible lines - 'you're going to teach me' that horrid declaration in love in Doomed that's meant to be goofy and sweet and comes across as being icky but what he needed to do was a pretty tall order.
 
Joined
Feb 23, 2019
Messages
610
Black Thorn
I usually don't like characters who are introduced as a potential love interest, but Riley was nice. I don't have much to say about him but I did like him, I would be perfectly happy if Buffy and Riley stayed together (were it not for season 5).
Spike already had an advantage with being an interesting character, as well as entertaining. He also plays well off most the main characters whereas Riley only plays well off Willow and Buffy.
 
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