I hear ya – I didn’t like Riley Finn either. In 2000, we were all reeling in the heartbreak of Angel leaving town. Nobody could ever replace Angel, he was incredible and he was the ‘one’. How dare Joss Whedon introduce us all to Riley so soon? The bed wasn’t even cold from Angel yet.
Riley was monotone, boring, the brainwashing initiative made him fake exciting, and he followed all the rules. The only thing he had going for him was his nice smile and middle America manners.
Since being in Coronavirus lockdown I started re-watching Buffy and something very, very, very strange happened. I found myself… liking… Riley. I don’t know what happened. I don’t even know who I am anymore. I can’t even go see my psychologist to check. I think I just have to come to terms and accept this… what shall I call it? Middle age acceptance? Maturity? Growth? Symptoms of Coronavirus?
The 21 year old version of me is disgusted at me right now. I don’t think as viewers we were ready for Riley, we were taken on the same journey as Buffy. She wasn’t ready for him either: Joss Whedon – brava for taking us on this emotional trajectory, albeit our acceptance came waaaay after the whole series was over. Buffy made her realisation too late in season 5 episode 10, she ran across fields to ask him to stay… she was too late… and so am I. I am very late to the Riley party.
I have a further confession to make. The first time I watched ‘Into the Woods’ – I cheered at the end when Buffy missed the helicopter. I was glad we would never see Riley again. 40 year old me – well, she cried. She didn’t just cry, there might now be a newly flowing river created in Bristol as a result of my emotions pouring out of me.
The sad thing is that Riley grew a backbone too late. He finally asked Buffy for what he needed, but it was the force of knowing he was leaving that made him ask for it. He threw down the ultimatum, but it came out of anger rather than him coming from a higher sense of worth, which is why it was an ultimatum and not a conversation. But that’s me being my over-analytical self… but the point I am trying to make is that episode 10 still had the correct ending.
Buffy wasn’t ready for Riley, and Riley was a regimented man who needed to find himself again. Shame he threw himself back into the brainwashing organisation rather than exploring who he really was. Buffy threw herself into an abusive relationship with Spike – but could my perspective on this relationship also change this time around? We will soon find out as I power through the rest of the episodes.
Anyway, you can sense I have a lot of time on my hands… I am now writing blogs about Buffy… about 20 years too late. However, I also think it is an interesting perspective and shows us that time is a great healer. I am mildly disturbed that some people came to these conclusions 20 years ago, therefore this is further evidence that my emotional processing is sooo much slower than everyone else. It took me about 6 years to get over Bette and Tina breaking up in the L Word… this reminds me, must watch the new episodes of this like any good law-abiding lesbian.
Xander: If he’s not the guy, if what he needs from you just isn’t there, let him go. Break his heart, and make it a clean break. But if you really think you can love this guy… I’m talking scary, messy, no-emotions-barred need… if you’re ready for that… then think about what you’re about to lose.
Someone pass me the tissues.