Originally from Huxley, Iowa, Riley was the good ol’ boy next door that was Buffy’s boyfriend for part of her freshman and sophomore years in college. He led a double life though, he acted as regular college guy, but he was also part of a secret government organization known as The Initiative (a secret United States Government agency that captured and researched supernatural beings). At first, he and Buffy kept the other from knowing of their secret lives, but the truth came out when The Gentlemen stole everyone’s voices in the episode Hush.
Buffy and Riley’s relationship grew and they ended up fighting demons together, although Riley was never quite at place in the Scooby Gang. Originally, Riley was heavily prejudiced against all supernatural beings, but after saving Oz from the Initiative Base and seeing how his superiors treated him in his human form, he realized that supernatural creatures are capable of both good and evil just as humans are.
In the beginning Riley was completely loyal to the Initiative, but after many events like Maggie Walsh trying to kill Buffy and her creating a half-human half-demon cyborg named Adam as a super-soldier, made Riley want to leave the organization. It wasn’t until he helped save Oz that he realized the extent of the Initiative’s corruption and turned his back on them in favor of the Scooby Gang. It was then he discovered that Maggie Walsh had implanted a Behavior Modifier in Riley when he joined The Initiative. Adam later exploited this and used the chip in order to control Riley before the final battle. The Initiative was destroyed in the summer of 2000, and Riley was relieved of his military standing. But everything he knew had been changed, and his behavior became a bit crazy.
Riley felt that Buffy was his superior in strength, so he began to push his body well past its limits in the hopes that he could compete with her. After learning that the drugs Maggie Walsh had given him were causing his pain receptors to shut down and his heartbeat to spike, Riley refused medical treatment from the government out of paranoia, but Buffy managed to convince him. After a quick face-off with Spike and Harmony, who were attempting to force an Initiative doctor to remove Spike’s chip, they successfully managed to get Riley heart surgery, though this made him a normal human being again, which only adding to his feelings of insecurity and weakness.
His and Buffy’s relationship began to deteriorate when Buffy continuously failed to give him the emotional intimacy, trust, and honesty he desired. Feeling the need for some new thrills and wondering what Buffy found so appealing about vampires – having allowed Dracula and Angel drink her blood – Riley began to let vampires feed from him. Thanks to Spike, Buffy discovered Riley’s new hobby and was, of course, furious and disgusted.
Riley’s behavior and his feeling that Buffy would never truly love him, led to their breakup. Despite Buffy’s best efforts to stop him, Riley rejoined the military and left Sunnydale.
Riley returned unexpectedly a year later while tracking a demon about to hatch eggs that could wipe out Sunnydale. But much to Buffy’s surprise, he didn’t come alone; he came with his new wife and fellow demon hunter – Sam. Even though he is happily married, he was still pretty upset seeing how far Buffy had fallen (sleeping with Spike, working in fast food).
We don’t see more of Riley until the Buffy comic.
Favorite Riley Quotes!
Riley Finn: “We’re drawing up a plan for world domination. The key element? Coffee makers that think.”
Buffy: “World domination? Is that a good…”
Riley Finn: “Baby, we’re the government. It’s what we do.”
[Riley’s throwing Spike out after catching him smelling Buffy’s sweater]
Spike: “I know, for a bleedin’ fact, the Slayer wouldn’t mind me bein’ here.”
Riley: “Right. What’s a little sweater sniffing between sworn enemies?”
Buffy: “Where’s my burger?”
Riley Finn: “Yeah, man, I’m starving. Cow me.”
Xander: “The, uh, fire’s not cooperating. It’s comforting to know that I lack the culinary finesse of a caveman.”
“I suddenly find myself needing to know the plural of apocalypse.”
“Back to what I was saying before we were rudely attacked by nothing.”