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September 16 2005

Marc Blucas on leaving Buffy. article about writing characters off. Blucas talks about how fans reacted to Riley and says some nice things about Joss. Uh, yeah... apparently there might be spoilers for international readers... Avoid the article if you're watching Lost...

There's some big 'spoilers' for other shows here, for international readers (eg Lost viewers in the UK).
You know, I always felt bad for the Riley character. He tried so hard and was just too wholesome and loving for someone like the slayer. I think it was Joss's way of saying that nice guys do finish last, and the women sometimes don't realize what they have till it's too late. I know the feeling.
I always admired Riley. His world view got turned inside out and he had to go through a character change almost a big as Wesley's and in a lot shorter time. Buffy romance-wise, he was so obviously the wrong guy in the wrong place.

I look forward to seeing more of Blucas. If I watched Prey for Rock and Roll to see him, I'll watch anything.
We have to add warnings for international readers?
You don't have to, I presume.
Can anyone say what Joss's role has been in pioneering this recent trend? I haven't really watched TV outside of Joss's shows for last 10 or so years...
Aww GimpyD, sounds like there's a sad story there. I think of Riley as part of the set-up for season 6 - Buffy can't have a normal life (she thinks) so she can't let herself have a healthy relationship. So she explores the darkness in season 6, which she couldn't do if Riley had stayed...
I never liked the riley character, his views were too narrow-minded. Demons bad, humans good. Very glad he left mid-season 5.

sethsky, yes, he was like that to begin with, but I think after being around Buffy he began to realise that there are shades of grey. Really they needed someone who was so convinced that demons were bad in order to make the point that not all of them are. If all of the Scooby Gang had just accepted it immediately they wouldn't have been able to develop much of a theme.

I've always felt that Riley was an unfairly maligned character. I didn't think Buffy was going to be with him forever, but it was important for them to make a statement that Buffy the show wasn't just about her relationship with Angel, but about all the characters and whatever happens to them. Riley was a good way of showing this, and I think that honestly he would probably have been the best partner for Buffy in the end, if she could have brought herself to love him as much as he loved her.

It's weird, doesn't anyone else feel like Riley was in it for much longer than he was? Recurring guest star for season four, regular for the first half of season five, and one more return appearance in season six, yet it feels like he was there for much longer.

And I think Marc Blucas did a great job with a difficult character, simply because he was replacing Angel. I'm sure had the writers decided that Buffy did stop him from getting on that helicopter, things could have gone differently and he would have been accepted by the fans, just as Tara was eventually seen as a great character and lover for Willow, or how some people liked seeing Cordy and Angel as opposed to Buffy and Angel.

[ edited by Razor on 2005-09-17 18:12 ]
Loved Riley. Loved his conflictedness (a word? maybe). Loved how he understood Spike when he said that the woman loves a little monster in her man, and tried, foolishly, to inject some into himself. Loved how he issued a totally appropriate ultimatum, and lived up to it.

A totally underappreciated portrayal of a really fascinating character. Having to replace Angel as Buffy's love interest, he was bound to irritate a lot of the fan base, but I think Blucas's work was splendid. As was the writing.
Wow, Razor, nearly simultaneous posts, with nearly identical sentiments, albeit yours more thought out than mine.

Agree, that Blucas was very, very good.
I also loved Riley. He wasn't intended to be a glamorous mythical figure on the scale of Angel or Spike, but a real human man against whom Buffy had to measure her own desires and needs.

And, Gossi, you're correct. The relevant blurb on the About page states that

"We define spoilers as any information about episodes not yet aired on North American television."

OTOH, with our ever-growing non-U.S. membership, it is always helpful to mention potentially spoilery news, and to invis-text potentially spoilery comments.
I liked Riley, because I think he was there for a reason (that master plan).
He was a weak character (necessary as a love interest for Buffy in that moment) but he was there just for to leave Buffy later, so, we will see how that affects her in the future.
I'm agree with you in that, gingeriffic.

And thanks for the consideration with non U.S members ;)
You don┤t need a spoiler tag, but an advise message will be always welcome.
I don't think that the replacement with Angel had anything to do with the hatred for his character. The character had his arclines, his screentime and everything. If fans don't like you after a year and are very glad you're gone than you have failed as a character. IMO Angel was a very boring character, but he succeeded and he got a lot less going on for him than that Riley did. And maybe that was the reason why Angel succeeded. Maybe if they hadn't spend so much screentime on Riley and allowed him to slowly develop he would have been succesfull.
I liked Riley from the start, I was even a passionate Buffy/Riley shipper at one stage. Come to think of it I may been the only Buffy/Riley shipper in the history of the Buffyverse fandom. Marc's a good actor, he has a quiet strength of character about him.
I'm not certain I understand the correlation between screen time and "success" with the fans. People just have different likes and dislikes among the characters, as is so readily evident in the threads at this site. For myself, Riley was not my favorite character, and sometimes I didn't think Blucas was quite as good an actor as the rest of the ensemble, but I thought Riley served a very important role in Buffy's adjustment from high school to college (adulthood) and her overall development. I have never quite understood the "hatred" for him.
I don't think he can act. I never bought into Riley. He was a cardboard cutout to me. No depth, no layers, nothing that makes a truly interesting or complicated (read: Jossian) character. That's just my story and I'm sticking to it. His character made some bad choices, but in my book, that doesn't always make them interesting... just kinda stupid. Jock gone bad doesn't exactly rock my world.

The fact that he's gained a modicum of popularity bodes well for the actor, but nothing he has done has even come close to equaling the level of quality or the deserved critical praise of Buffy.
I definitely agree that Riley was very underappreciated character. Probably not someone I would get along with in real life but he did seem like just a damn decent guy. And there were lots of things I did like about him--like even when he had issues about Buffy being stronger, etc., it was never really a gender thing.

Credit should really go to Blucas too because it can't be easy to play a character like that on a show that's filled with super charismatic characters. I mean, Riley might seem bland anyway but gosh, compared to the rest of them on the show the difference is even more striking.

(And nice guys do not finish last. It's too bad that so many guys think that aspiring to be an a**hole is the best way to get trim. So not true.)
There's distinction between liking a character because he/she is likeable (you would like them in real life) and liking them because he/she is interesting. Riley's narrow-minded views about demons and humans made him an interesting character. If he had stayed longer, I'm sure he would have showed more character development. To me, it seemed premature to have him kicked off mid-season 5. I wish he had been kept around until at least the end of the season so that there could have been more resolution with his character.

On a subject more related to this article, I don't like when characters are inserted in a show for a specific purpose and then kicked off when they're done. What I like about Joss' shows was the character's deaths were meaningful; they didn't just die because there was nothing left for them to do. If a character doesn't have enough depth to last for a few seasons, he/she should not be added as a main cast member.
Nice guys don't usually go that a**hole route. They usually just get stepped on enough when they're young to contain a larger shade of grey and a bitter side as they grow up.
I didn't like Riley in season four because I hated the fact that the season arc was military focused and Xander had no value. It seems logical to me that a boy with some military knowledge who comes from a poorish family and there being a local base, would join the armed forces after High School, I mean since the military was going to be the focus of the season any way. I think it was a total waste and maybe a Xander purpose could have actually grown from it. Instead Xander and Nick were relegated to pointless comic relief for the most point.

I did like Riley in season 5. Marc Blucas showed Riley's fear and heartache wonderfully. I was glad he left because I think it fit the characterů..Of course that was before I had to suffer though dumpster sex in season 6 :p! And suffer though the hell that was episode 6.15 that I refuse to talk about....
I felt the character was uninteresting. Even given the arc, the fact that the character grew and developed, he never grabbed me. I can't point blame to either the writers or to Blucas but it was there. Much like Eve on Angel although I am fairly sure it was the actress I didn't much like.
And without trying to get into the neverending Season 6 broo- ha-ha, I liked it a lot. Found it more interesting and compelling than Buffy trying to be normal with Riley.
Backyboo, that never bothered me but your idea would have been an awesome way for Season 4 to go.
I don't think he can act. I never bought into Riley. He was a cardboard cutout to me. No depth, no layers, nothing that makes a truly interesting or complicated (read: Jossian) character.

I completely agree, willowy.

I'd also add that I watched Buffy from the beginning and followed it happily and a huge reason for that was Buffy herself. And i hated the effect of Riley's character on Buffy's. With him, she was always aware of her lack of "normality", she would have to hold back to make him feel less threatened, she was often forced to be less herself in order to make him feel superior in his role in her life. I also found his particular choice and timing of cheating on her to be more selfish that most cheating. "Hm, Buffy, i know you're dealing with this whole threat of a God and various other Slayer-related duties, not to mention your sickly mother and whiny sister, but pay attention to meeeeeee! You won't? Okay, well, that means i'll go cheat on you in the best kind of way to make you feel absolutely horrible again. Oh and when you catch me, I'll remind you that it's your fault cause you don't love me enough or well enough, plus give you an ultimatum in the process."

I'm not saying Buffy was perfect in the relationship or made all the right choices, but I hated how Riley blamed Buffy for his lack of faithfulness or inability to accept her for who she is. I don't think that Riley was ever the nice guy who got away. Unfortunately, that was the lesson taught over and over to Buffy and i think that just added to her trust and esteem issues in general.

And...stopping now. Sorry about that. I have leftover bitterness.
Yeah, I didn't like the way Riley left the show. He was supposed to be a person with a good heart, even if his views were narrow-minded, and he ended up cheating on Buffy and then leaving when she was already having enough other problems to deal with. I wish he had stayed to help her get through her grief over her mom. He could have left when Buffy died at the end of season 5, thinking that Buffy was dead and she would never come back.
razor, i don't agree, i never saw riley change, there are only very few characters i loved and respected of how they changed and over half of them ended up dead. joyce,fred,spike,tara. I also didn't believe riley was gonna be with buffy forever because they didn't match. I was also never a fan of the angel and buffy relationship because it wasn't real, they didn't know the person behind each others masks. Angel and cordy was much better match.
Hang on... Angel and Cordy were a good match? First time I've heard someday say that ;) (Well, excluding Greenie).

I hated Riley. Boring, cardboard cutout, trampled upon.. And then somebody asked me to describe how I acted. I described Riley. That character made me wake up and go 'Shit, I'm Riley. People hate Riley'. I'm not the same person now.

(Dear Joss - look what you did!!@~!@)
Going through season four in our episode analysis at CDS, I still can't find my Riley love and I so wanted too.. I think he did have too much screen time too quickly and frankly, he was just...dull.

Since I came in late to the show, i imagine it must have been excruciating for those shippers who either had an Angel hangover, or were pining for ME to give the sizzling Spuffy a go. Also, if you shipped Xander/Buffy, I imagine they could be annoyed, too. IF they are going to put her with a human, then why NOT Xander, who we had grown to care about and was far more interesting?
Buffy didn't, er, like Xander that way - as far as I could establish. It's the old one of 'sleeping with your friends', which I think Willow/Xander explored quite well.
I agree, gossi, although I did kind of like the idea of Xander/Buffy at the beginning of the series. I do know that there were Xander/Buffy shippers, though.
Long Post Warning!!

When introducing my brother to Buffy, he said something that I think hit the reason for the general attitude towards Riley right on the head, but I have never seen mentioned anywhere. (Admittedly there is a lot on BTVS I have not yet read.) "Riley was the embodiment of the antagonist of Buffy's target audience, of course nobody liked him."

By that he meant, Buffy was about outsiders and nerds, the powerless that find their power, and would attract a fan base who identified with that group. Riley was a jock and an upstanding, military man. He was a large, blonde, Middle-American paragon. He was the conventional hero in a show that celebrated the idea that people who are dismissed as unimportant by society could be heros of more importance than those society would recognize.

That is why I have always assumed that the audience was never supposed to take to Riley completely, and that Riley was never supposed to last. I guess it also never bothered me because I came to Buffy late and I look at it as a complete story about the journey that human beings take, the mistakes they make on the journey, how the journey is effected by different events, and how people effect the journey of other people.

In some ways Riley and Buffy was the story of two worlds colliding on both a large level but more importantly, on an individual level. I never thought it was about Buffy not loving Riley, but about them each needing different things, as often happens in life. They loved each other but ultimately Riley was being destroyed as he tried to be something he wasn't because he could not deal with or understand Buffy. Buffy was always trying to tone down who she was so as not to intimidate Riley, as is often common for strong women. Neither one could truly be themselves with the other, a recipe for disaster in any relationship. They were the people that the other one wanted to be right for, but weren't.

The truth of it was in the way both blamed themselves and the other person at the same time for what was going on. Angry at themselves for not being able to be what the other one really wanted and blaming the other for needing something they could not be.

All this is why I always find the anger that some people have about the episode where Riley came back in S6 so perplexing. Riley went back to a life that he was more suited to, and found a woman who was more suited to him. It makes sense that she would not be a Buffy clone. To me she seems (to put it nicely) less complex and more conventional, rather I do not think that they were presenting her as the perfect woman at all. I think the audience was supposed to look at her and have their understanding of Riley and the problems in his relationship with Buffy become even clearer. This was the kind of woman that Riley needed, and that was why the relationship with Buffy was never going to work. The short version was, he needed someone simple and she needed someone who could understand and deal with her complexity. I think the series had already established that complex is sexy and attractive in the Buffyverse. It was just pointing out that not everybody can handle it. They may have even been saying that the vast majority of people can't handle it.

Boy that was a lot longer than I planned to write, but this has been wanting to get out for a long time. I feel better now.

...And I agree with Gossi. I'm glad that Xander and Buffy never got together.

[ edited by newcj on 2005-09-17 21:42 ]
Truly profound and profoundly true!
What a damn lovely post!
newsj: I think you hit the nail on the head as to why so much of the audience were antagonistic towards Riley. He was a "normal" hero in a way that really didn't fit in with most of the Buffy universe and the things that made it attractive to most of us in the fan base. That being said, I do think the character, while not the most dynamic, was unjustly attacked. And I think that Riley's final plotline, with him paying vampire girls to feed off him, was one of the darkest, edgiest and most interesting ideas the series ever had. The fact that it was the corn fed military guy going to such a dark place made it all the cooler and more interesting.
Gee, thanks guys. (blush)

Eric G, I don't know if I would use as many superlatives, but I agree that it was dark, edgy and interesting. If I was going to apply a superlative, I would say that in some ways I think it was one of the most underrated and ignored arcs in the series. I think it is because so much of the fan base had already dismissed Riley and therefore did not pay that much attention to what was going on with him...or not, since I was not around at the time. ;-)
I thought that plotline was too rushed.
Great post, newcj. I never thought of that before and it makes a ton of sense.

Off on a tangent, I hated the "return of Riley" in season 6 episode, simply because the characters were behaving so idiotically, with all the "Wow, look at their great marriage!" Um, hello, they've been married for about 5 minutes and don't even have kids yet. Check back in 10 years before you comment on their "great marriage." P.S. Grow up.

Um, off-topic rant over :).
newcj - great post!

Ilana - I take the point of your rant though I felt it less strongly (and probably with amusement rather than hate). But, the more I think about it, what a great lead in to the next episode 'Hells Bells' where Xander went through exactly the 'come back in 10 years or more' exercise you suggest.
Um, hello, they've been married for about 5 minutes and don't even have kids yet. Check back in 10 years before you comment on their "great marriage."

Exactly. I don't think the entire intention was to compare all realtionships to theirs, especially since we didn't really see their marriage, we saw a glimpse of something in a high pressure situation. BUt yeah, Xander/Anya, Buffy/Spike, it was like the Riley/Sam 'ship was the pedestal that these relationships could not reach. I don't like idealization and I've always liked that BtVS usually veered away from that. However, i always felt Riley was the exception. i blame Petrie ;)
See I didn't feel the point of the Riley's marriage was to show the perfect relationship or the other relationships in a bad light by comparison. As was said, they were newly weds that everyone, including the audience, saw for a very short time. And wouldn't it be sad, and unrealistic if they didn't look perfect at that point? But it was serving a purpose in pushing Buffy along in her journey, and more indirectly, other characters as well. If Riley and Sam had come back as regulars (no thank you) or had their own spin off (I'm kidding. I'm kidding!) I have no doubt we would have seen all the little problems in their relationship, some of which may or may not have grown into big problems...if anyone had actually kept watching, that is. ;-)
I appreciate your interpretation, newcj, but i still must respectfully disagree. There were other ways for Buffy's journey to move on and the utilization of Riley, for me, was beneath Buffy's growth as a character. Once again, i call idealization and IMO, i don't think that Riley was ever an ideal character, though it felt like that was what was being fed to me more often than not. With his return, i felt this again with his return, which was greeted with something comparable to a hero's welcome, which amused me. Also, I outright cringed when Buffy felt the need to apologize for what happened in the past, which goes along with her character and how she blamed herself, etc, but... And yes, i know Riley brushed it off, but again, as i said before regarding their relationship, it's not that i think Buffy had no fault in it, just that Riley really did the ending of it with his actions and his ultimatums. If apologies were being brushed off, i had hoped it would've been Buffy doing so with Riley's. Again, for me, this show *was* about Buffy's journey, about Buffy's character, and i just sincerely disliked the effect of Riley's on hers. Buffy shouldn't be running after helicopters.

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