Riley Finn

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Character
Name: Riley Finn
Occupation: Initiative soldier, psychology TA
Title/Rank:
Location: Sunnydale
Status: alive
Relationships: Buffy Summers (girlfriend); Forrest Gates, Graham Miller (friends); Maggie Walsh (boss & mentor)
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Other:
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Riley Finn is a secondary character in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandom, a soldier in the Initiative and the boyfriend of Buffy Summers. He also appears in the season 8 comics. He's portrayed by Marc Blucas.

Canon

Riley is introduced in season 4 in a dual role as a psychology TA and a member of the Initiative, an underground government/military organisation to study & combat demons & vampires, headed by Maggie Walsh. He & Buffy start a relationship which survives the twin revelations of their respective secret lives and includes a lot of enthusiastic vanilla sex (once with bodyswapped Faith).

Riley's initially portrayed as the opposite of Angel – normal, cheerful and decidedly human – but is later revealed to have enhanced capabilities from an experimental treatment. During season 5, after the destruction of the Initiative, the death of his friend Forrest and the loss of his enhancements, Riley turns darker, suspects Buffy doesn't truly love him and becomes so jealous of Angel that he takes to frequenting brothel-like dives where clients pay vampires to feed on them. He abandons Buffy, joining a demon-fighting covert-ops team and later marrying team member Mary-Sue Sam.

Fannish Opinion

... Different viewers had wildly different takes on exactly who this character was. He was, by turns, seen as a model boyfriend, an enormous bore, a weak-willed wimp who lacked masculinity because he let Buffy walk all over him and control too much of their relationship, and a misogynistic moron who was afraid of Buffy’s strength and tried to force her into a traditionally passive feminine role like a square peg in a round hole. Needless to say, that’s a very strange patchwork quilt of impressions, and yet this might very well be the reason Riley was unpopular. He did show signs of all of these characteristics during his run on Buffy. He was a bundle of contradictions, and it was often difficult to grasp exactly what his character’s role was supposed to be. ...
Perhaps the reason for this was Riley’s normalcy. Not a witch, a Watcher, a vampire, or even the son of a Slayer, Riley is a good, old-fashioned, Iowa boy. He’s in a secret military project, and for a while Prof. Walsh drugs him to make his body more powerful, but in general, he’s the boy next door. The problem is, this is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, not The Andy Griffith Show. Normal sticks out like a sore thumb in Sunnydale and is usually relegated to characters who wind up as vamp bait. The exception to this rule is Xander, whose role in the series is to represent the average everyman who wants to make a difference in the world despite not having superpowers. In short, Riley’s role is something of a Xerox of Xander’s, which may explain why Xander often speaks on his behalf. (bookishwench/Meltha)[1]
I like Riley. I think that he’s an interesting character who got shoved off the show for the simple fact that he wasn’t Angel and he wasn’t Spike. It’s probably the one place the rabid shipper gangs for Buffy/Angel and Buffy/Spike agree - hate Riley Finn. ...

...Riley is an interesting character to me. He comes to the show believing in a black and white worldview - human good, monster bad. He’s involved with the military for the same reason so many do - he sees the good that it can do, the good it’s capable of, and wants to be a part of that. He then meets Buffy and is drawn into the morally grey and complex world that she and the Scoobies live in. Suddenly, everything that he’s ever known, ever believed in, is something that he has to question. He loses the woman who was a surrogate mother figure to him, and then learns that she was using and abusing him. He sees all of the things behind the curtain and takes a stand against it, doing what’s right, not what he’s told.

And then, in Season Five, he’s lost his purpose. He obviously doesn’t fit in with the Scooby Gang - the only one of them he seriously interacts with beyond Buffy is Xander... He’s been reduced down to being Buffy’s boyfriend. (dgcatanisiri)[2]
I don't dislike Riley but I don't think his character really worked the way they wanted him to. ... He always felt slightly out of step with everything else, like he just didn't mesh with the style of the show. I'm not sure about that, I can't put my finger on exactly why he doesn't work the way he needed to in order to click with fans. Personally, I love the idea of the outsider not fitting in with this very tight-knit group, who's a bit baffled by this world and who has this totally different perspective and life experience from the people in the group. When that's done well it's great but I never felt like it totally worked and Riley just didn't seem like he really fit into the show itself in an interesting way. He didn't appeal to me for most of season 4, at least on an emotional level; he started getting more interesting to me in season 5 when his problems were less related to the Initiative and more related to other things I felt more connected to in the show like his relationships with the rest of the characters. (Bunny Hearts)[3]
Riley doesn’t deserve the hate he gets. Buffy’s relationship with Riley was the healthiest relationship she’s had. He got along with all of her family and friends, in fact he’s one of her few boyfriends who actually seemed to enjoy spending time with her friends, whereas Angel and Spike were more just about tolerating them for her sake instead of actually liking them as people of their own accord. Both Riley and Buffy were forced into their ‘destinies’ - Riley never asked to be made into a super soldier and Buffy never asked to be a Slayer - and both of them deal with this and make it through okay. (nerdyninjanicole)[4]

Fandom

This article or section needs expansion.

Riley was never a very popular character. B/A shippers (when he was introduced, the majority of fans) reviled him for being Angel's antithesis; Spuffy shippers hated him for unmasking chipped-Spike's evil doings. Even some of the rare Buffy/Riley shippers turned against him for abandoning her when she needed support. Many fans didn't like the Initiative, felt that he didn't fit in with the Scoobies, considered him bland, boring or forgettable, or felt he & Buffy lacked chemistry.

The majority of fanfiction featuring Riley exists to bash his character; Roo writes Riley has been twisted, mangled and turned into an evil monster more times than I can count.[5] Neutral or favourable Riley portrayals are relatively rare but do exist. Aside from the canonical pairing with Buffy, he's also commonly paired in het with his mentor Maggie Walsh, his wife Sam, slayer Faith & Buffy's sister Dawn. Slash is fairly common; he's paired with his friend Graham, Xander, Angel & Spike, among others. Except in Riley/Sam stories, Sam tends to be dead or divorced at the opening of the piece to make way for the pairing of choice, where she's mentioned at all. Fan authors associated with the character include Alexandra Huxley and Marina Frants.

Riley is a relatively rare subject for fan art but appears in the occasional manip, often with Buffy or Faith. Discussion usually focuses on his relationship with Buffy, with topics including who is most to blame for his break-up with Buffy and whether he's misogynistic for wanting Buffy to open up to him.[2]

Example Fanworks

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

Fanfiction

Fan Art

Meta

Archives, Mailing Lists & Communities

Resources

References

  1. bookishwench: Essay: Andrew, Riley, and Kennedy: What the Heck Was Joss Thinking? (accessed 24 September 2014)
  2. 2.0 2.1 buffymeta: On Unpopular Characters: Riley Finn (accessed 23 September 2014)
  3. Post by Bunny Hearts dated 13 May 2013 in slayalive: Thought's on Riley Finn (accessed 23 September 2014)
  4. buffymeta: 24. (accessed 14 September 2015)
  5. Roo's Recs (accessed 26 September 2014)