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I'm using this icon because it has Sandy. See what I did there?

I've been rewatching S5 and just finished Into the Woods. Predictably, I have some disconnected Buffy/Riley thoughts for you guys. :)

- I think Riley's issues are less about Buffy and her supposed emotional shut-downedness and more about his insecurity as compared to Angel. It goes back to his behavior in The Yoko Factor, which was over-the-top and horribly irrational (assuming that Buffy had had sex with Angel while visiting him in LA). Buffy vs Dracula adds to this with the vampire bite-y thing. Then Out of My Mind manages to cement things as Riley becomes Completely Normal Dude, which he's convinced is not good enough for Buffy.

What's more, Riley's acting out begins before Joyce's illness really kicks into full gear. As early as Family, we're shown Riley at Willy's Bar. The bartender comments that he's been going there "night after night". Riley's seeking out vampires is more related to his own sense of inadequacy than his perception of Buffy being shut down.



- Speaking of that, I'm kinda thinking that we're supposed to think Riley is being unreasonable to some degree. In Into the Woods, he looks hurt because Buffy turns away from him in her sleep. No, really. The woman shifts position while snoozing and Riley takes it as a sign she doesn't want him. That's...silly.

But as Riley tells Spike, he "left reasonable about three exits back".

- Tied into Riley's insecurity as compared to Angel is Riley's desire for his relationship with Buffy to be more...histrionic? Insane? Upset-making? Dawn comments that Buffy doesn't cry about him everyday (as she did with Angel), and Riley takes this as a bad thing. He doesn't recognize that...that isn't a good type of relationship to have.

- As Riley is self-destructing, he's also completely overlooking that Buffy does need him. While her mom's sick, she makes several comments about depending on Riley to help her friends patrol. We see that Riley ditches them in favor of suck-jobs from vamps (beginning of Listening to Fear). She also depends on him - in Shadow - to watch Dawn while she does Slayer stuff. And immediately after her mom's successful surgery, she sends Dawn away to have a night with Riley. During that night, she emotionally confides to him about how upset she'd been during the ordeal. Riley hears about how she didn't cry in front of him and completely overlooks the fact that she's...opening up to him at that very moment.

- Riley tells Buffy, in Into the Woods, that being Joe Normal isn't enough for her. I disagree. Buffy seems perfectly content with their relationship - and with Riley. It's Riley who can't handle being Joe Normal. He's also convinced himself - since as early as The Yoko Factor - that Buffy won't be happy with him unless he's fang-y. He's been given little actual reason to believe this, but the conviction makes him lose all sense of reason and he ends up going off the deep end because of it.

- Riley's story in S5 is ultimately about the effect that the Slaying world can have on a Joe Normal guy. He's a fairly average person thrown into a world of superpowered beings and magic. He feels inadequate compared to everything, despite numerous reassurances from his superpowered girlfriend that it doesn't matter to her. This inadequacy eventually drives him to bail.

- In joining the military again, Riley allows himself to still enjoy the danger of the supernatural world (The major in ITW describes it as: "High risk, low pay, and seriously messy") while also being among a group of non-superpowered humans. In other words, he won't be "the normal guy". He'll be the competent soldier, along with everybody else.

- It's no wonder, then, that Xander - the other Joe Normal guy of the group - sympathizes with Riley.

- I'll say this for Riley. In Into the Woods, he didn't initially bring up the military wanting him back as an ultimatum. It seems that he was letting Buffy know of the situation they were in. Buffy took it as an ultimatum and railed against it. That's when Riley followed her lead and actually made it an ultimatum.

Let me quote the transcript so you all can have that on hand when you disagree with me. :)

*

RILEY: They want me back, Buffy ... the military. (Buffy looks up in shock) It's deep undercover, no contact with civilians. Transport's leaving tonight.
BUFFY: Tonight? When were you gonna tell me about this?
RILEY: I'm telling you now.
BUFFY: Are you going?
RILEY: I don't know. If we can't work this out...
BUFFY: Then what? This is goodbye? (Riley shrugs. Buffy gets mad.) You are unbelievable. You're giving me an ultimatum?
RILEY: No, I'm not.
BUFFY: Yes you are! You expect me to get over it now or you're gone!
RILEY: I don't, Buffy, that's not what I meant.
BUFFY: Well, I have heard enough. (angrily) I will not take the blame for this. (Starts to walk away.)
RILEY: I'm not asking you to. (Grabs her arm yet again)
BUFFY: Let go of me! (pulls her arm away)
[...]
RILEY: I'm leaving, Buffy.
She stops walking but doesn't turn to face him. He turns to speak to her back.
RILEY: Unless you give me a reason to stay ... I'm leaving tonight.

*

Riley sounds genuine when he says, "That's not what I meant." I think he realized that they'd hit an impasse in their argument and was giving her the head's up as to what was going on.

- Xander's lecture to Buffy was still completely out of line. I don't think it's a stretch to say that before Riley's Douche Move, Buffy would have been the first to beg Riley to stay. She pretty much begged him to see the Initiative doctor in Out of My Mind. She adores the guy. However, the Douche Move makes her unsure. As she says in ITW, "I don't even know who he is anymore."

Follow my logic here, peeps: The major obstacle keeping Buffy from asking Riley to stay in ITW is her discovery of his Douche Behavior. Her attitude towards Riley - whatever Xander's assessment of it may be - is only relevant if it mitigates what Riley did. That is, by bringing up Buffy's "shutting down" to convince her to go after him, Xander is implicitly saying that she drove Riley to his Douche Behavior. And that's fucked up.

No cookies for Xander from me on that one. He missed the boat and Buffy ends up shouldering the blame for everything...again.

- I end with the conclusion that the Buffy/Riley break-up was just inevitable. They were doomed from the start. Riley was looking for a feverishly crazed, out of control romance, and Buffy had moved past that need after Angel. I always come back to Buffy's words in Into the Woods:

"Because I'm telling you, this is it, this is me. This is the package. And if it's so deficient that you need to get your kicks elsewhere ... then we really have a problem."

They're not compatible. Yep.

Comments

(Anonymous)
Dec. 11th, 2010 10:52 pm (UTC)
Riley is very much the traditionally, conventionally manly type, "John Wayne" dude, who likes a strong women but wants to protect her and have her cry on his shoulder as well.

Yeah, which is, I think, why so many guys who watch the show end up liking him - he's something they can identify with. Plus, he's got the whole SuperBond thing going on, another fanboying trait. I really believe that lots of things happening in S4 have to do with the producers wanting to entice male audience - secret government organisations, cool weapons and gadgets, GI Joe Public, I mean, really.

But I'm not going to argue that Riley didn't have reasons to feel the way he did - because I don't believe that Buffy was really Past That Crap, i.e. the idea that "real love and passion go hand in hand with pain and fighting" and ready for a "nice, normal relationship". She was on the rational level, but emotionally, not so much, which subsequent seasons would prove. Thing is, she had trouble finding the middle ground between the two extremes. A relationship based on pain and fighting is doomed to fail unless you eventually build up bonds of trust, respect and mutual support. But so will a relationship based on little else but the idea that the guy is 'solid' and safe.

Agreed, but with a grain of salt, because of the whole not-really-feeling-well-and-like-herself thing that Buffy had after coming back to life. Especially since, when Spike offers his idea of love as something that burns and consumes, she disagrees, so that would indicate that she doesn't reaaly want that, or that that sort of thing isn't enough, just like you said there in the end. I do agree that she has trouble finding the middle ground, though.


Anyway, to me, the Riley issue stems more from the fact that the writers gave him too many roles, and they couldn't coexist within a single character. First, he's the shy TA. Fine, that I bought, and didn't really find him irritating (boring, yeah, but not in a bad way - if that makes sense). A couple of episodes down the road, though, he's a secret agent who fights demons and is what every run-of-the-mill little boy wants to be when he grows up. But that story tied in with the GI plot, so it was somewhat stomachable. Then, come S5, I feel like they didn't know what to do with him, so they made him a bitchy, insecure (no longer GI) Joe Public. And the whole thing was a bit messy. (Kinda like what they did with Dawn after she stopped being the Key) The character got a bit too much like Frankenstein's monster, the actor, I think, wasn't really able to pull off potraying said character, and the whole thing developed into a huge mess that leaves the audience with a distinct feeling of disliking Riley, but not really being able to pinpoint why.
boot_the_grime
Dec. 12th, 2010 01:15 am (UTC)
I wonder what the initial plans for Riley were, and whether they did his S5 arc because they realized that the "perfect guy" thing just wasn't working. I also wonder if things would've been different if they had cast an actor who had any kind of chemistry with SMG.

Agreed, but with a grain of salt, because of the whole not-really-feeling-well-and-like-herself thing that Buffy had after coming back to life. Especially since, when Spike offers his idea of love as something that burns and consumes, she disagrees, so that would indicate that she doesn't reaaly want that, or that that sort of thing isn't enough, just like you said there in the end. I do agree that she has trouble finding the middle ground, though.

The fact that Buffy was depressed in S6 is crucial for why she acted on it, but it wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been already there somewhere. She felt she needed some kind of strong feeling - anything - to shake her out of her numbness, but there is a reason why her messed up relationship with Spike was the only thing that made her feel something. Which suggests that she hadn't really resolved those issues the way she thought she did. There's a disconnect between Buffy's rational and ethical, and visceral reactions throughout S6. At the same time, she rejects the idea that love is all about burning passion - she is not that 16-year old girl who used to tell Angel "I love you. I don't know if I can trust you". Which is why I said, this kind of thing isn't enough for a relationship to work. Buffy and Spike did eventually build stronger bonds of trust, respect, care, support, but it still happened only after they had both been through a world of pain, including the time when she had to deal with him killing people again and having her trust put to the test - which all played out like a sort of upside-down version of Buffy/Angel, with so many parallels yet completely different.

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