PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A SPOILER-RICH ZONE. If your diet requires you to dine on television spoiler-free ... good luck with that.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

In Defense of Riley Finn

In Defense of Riley Finn 

or... Why Riley Finn is the Perfect Boyfriend        


         I’d like to get something off my chest.  Right now, in front of all of you.  I love Riley Finn.  I just do.  This is not a confession.  Because confessions are for bad things.  I feel no shame in loving Riley Finn.  And I don’t necessarily feel that Riley is good for Buffy.  But I do feel that Riley is good for Buffy right now.  He entered her life at the perfect time.  He left her life at the perfect time.  

He wants to be your cowboy.
       You can’t talk about Riley before first mentioning Owen.  The lovable and adorkable hunk made only one appearance in Never Kill a Boy on a First Date, but he made a lasting impression in my heart.  He’s a precursor for Riley and I wouldn’t have been surprised if they were somehow related – an opportunity severely missed in the Buffy Universe.  They’re both hunky, larger than life, big doofballs; manly men with hearts of gold.  They want to help.  They want to be your hero.  They want to be Indiana Jones and John McClane all in one; but maybe not Jack Bauer.  They want to save the day.

       “Owen is just so Owen-y”, says Buffy and that sentence may make some sort of sense that’s not except you completely understand what she means.  In the same regard Riley is just so Riley…y. When Riley first meets Buffy, he barely notices her.  He immediately takes a liking to Willow because of their mutual love for psychology, reading ahead and the learning part of learning

        But then something magical happens. Riley notices Buffy; not because “she’s so hot, she’s Buffy”, but because of the way she defends her friends – and also her adorable peculiarities. I think if it were all about Buffy’s hotness, Riley would have started wooing her from the moment he met her in the campus bookstore. And then the wooing!  What boy woos anymore?  A cornbread Iowan boy whose momma brought him up right – that’s who.

        And the courting is fantastic.  We get to see what Riley is all about.  First, he goes to the best friend for information.  And he’s not all sneaky about it; he’s charming and not in a smarmy way.  He uses his knowledge of her cheese-loving for good; if not awkwardly.  And finally Buffy gives in.  Because how can you not?  Especially after the string of love interests she’s had thus far.  From Angel “I turned evil when we consummated our relationship” to Parker “I turned evil when we consummated our relationship,” Buffy hasn’t had the greatest past when it comes to boyfriends.  So it’s no wonder that she gravitated to this beautiful, sweet, husband-material type guy.

          Some say that Riley was a “safe choice”; someone she could rely on who wouldn’t cheat or leave her.  But if that were true, why not choose Xander?  Someone who has been devoted to her from the beginning?  Perhaps it was the timing.  Maybe if Xander had met Buffy in college after her experiences with Parker and Angel, he wouldn’t be stuck in that ‘friend zone’.  Or maybe it’s that one element that Xander doesn’t have: being a bad ass solider. (Shut up, his knowledge from Halloween doesn’t count.  It’s only used once in a while by the contrivance fairy.)

          So their relationship progressed.  Buffy slowly let Riley in…..very slowly.  They started dating but waited a while to sleep together.  Finally, in Hush, Riley & Buffy unintentionally revealed all their secrets.  It took a little bit for the shock to wear off, but Riley seemed happy to have a superhero girlfriend and didn’t seem that bothered that she was way stronger than him. 

Look at that smile.  That smile says, "Yep.  That's my girl.
She just defeated like 50 military guys in under a minute."

          When they finally sleep together, several episodes later, Riley is there when she wakes up which Buffy isn’t expecting.  She isn’t used to it, but it’s exactly what she needs at that moment. I bet he even called the next day…at least he would have if his boss hadn’t tried to kill her.

          This was a time in both Riley and Buffy’s lives where they needed someone stable to deal with some emotional blows.  Riley certainly needed Buffy when his world came tumbling down; when he found out his boss (“mother”) was using her research for evil. And Buffy was indeed there for him.

          But then it happened. Buffy got to a point where she didn’t need Riley anymore.  She had her friends for moral support and didn’t need the grounded boyfriend she had gotten used to.  She was too strong for him and Riley needed to be needed.  So yeah, Riley had some big flaws right there. He needed to be needed and ended up going somewhere else just to feel – something Buffy will do in a couple of seasons. And cheating isn't something I take lightly. Riley was an ass to cheat on Buffy instead of talking to her about how he was feeling.  But the thing is, Riley wasn’t an ass but circumstances were turning him into one and he needed to go.

          That's why the ultimatum he gives Buffy is ridiculous but necessary. It’s what he needs to do to get out and move on. He admits to Xander early on in season 5 that he knows Buffy doesn’t love him (Btw, a friendship that I wouldn’t have minded seeing developed).  And I’m not sure he was 100 per cent right about that.  I think Buffy loved him in her own way but she needed something she never ever quite got.  What was it that Buffy needed? More passion? Angst? Depressing men with stupid hair?  That’s the subject for another time. 

           It’s interesting that Riley is the one person in the Buffy universe that gets a happy ending when it comes to relationships.  I was glad to see him come back for one final episode, married to a strong woman – another superhero – but one that needed him as much as he needed her.  And I’d like to think that Buffy was happy for him.  Because in the end, despite his flaws, Riley was a good guy that deserved to be happy - even if it wasn't with Buffy.

Also, try my new sporcle game: Which Buffy Season Was That?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

You Think You Know What's to Come, What You Are. You Haven't Even Begun.

Series Stats:

Dead Humans - 101
Dead Undeads - 179
Dead Flashbacks - 7
Giles Unconscious - 12
Giles Cleans His Glasses - 13
Buffy Breaks a Door - 19
Evil Reveal - 41
Unevil Reveal - 14
Shenanigans Called - 94
Apocalypse Called - 6

Season Four Stats (including comparison to previous season):

Dead Humans - 23 (-6)
Dead Undeads - 43 (-27)
Dead Flashbacks - 0 (-2)
Giles Unconscious - 0 (-4)
Giles Cleans His Glasses - 2 (-3)
Buffy Breaks a Door - 4 (=)
Evil Reveal - 5 (-5)
Unevil Reveal - 1 (-4)
Shenanigans Called - 20 (-3)
Apocalypse Called - 1 (=)

Overall a marked decrease on all fronts from the previous season. We've still got more Dead Undeads than Dead Humans, so go Team Scoobies, and Buffy continues to break doors at a regular rate, but Giles managed to stay unconcussed for the entire season, and you must admit, that's a little strange. In fact, none of our stats this season were an increase on Season Three's stats - the best they could manage was to break even, with apocali and door breakage, but even our shenanigan count was a bit down. Season Five, we're counting on you to raise our numbers! And if not, well ... Giles has more Scotch.

Zelda's Thoughts:
Okay, so part of the reason we took so long to getting around to writing up our Season Four roundup is how damn long it took us to even get through it. This isn't a reflection on the season, but more on the behind the scenes drama we've both been dealing with. In any event, it's a bit hard for me to sit here and look back on the season with the same kind of coherent unity I've had for the last three seasons, because we had so many breaks. But, you know, I'll try.

I think Daniel and I both said at the beginning that we like this season more than the general consensus seems to, and I'm sticking to that. It boasts some truly strong episodes in the canon, including the Emmy-nominated Hush. And I think the finale (I'm counting both Primeval and Restless here) stands firmly with the series's tradition of strong season endings.

I think the arcs of our principal characters are, for the most part, organically crafted, and honest about how friendships and roles change after high school. Daniel has said, and he's right, that it sucks watching our Scoobies grow apart and not communicate, but they're all feeling massively insecure about these various changes, and worried that if they acknowledge them, their friendships might change or even disappear. So while it sucks to see Xander as listless as he is, or Giles at rather loose (if amusing and musical) ends, it makes sense - they've both lost the grounding daily presence of both the school structure and of having Buffy rely on them, to varying degrees. And as Willow finds herself more in magic - and in her relationship with Tara - she worries if this will pull her further away from Buffy, and so barely mentions either. Buffy, meanwhile, flirts with the idea of a whole new group of friends whose interests are specifically hers - slaying demons - even if their methods differ dramatically. This goes hand in hand with her new boyfriend, who is pulling her, deliberately or not, away from her old high school crowd.

So this is all fun to explore, but it would be ultimately very depressing if they were to end the season as isolated as their arcs seem to be directing them - and as Adam and Spike maneuver them - so it's of course satisfying and heartwarming to have them reaffirm their bond both emotionally and metaphorically as ScooberBuffy (patent pending). But I also like that this conclusion and kickass battle is chased by Restless, where they dream - still in isolation, even with their reaffirmed connection - and we check in with each character, to see how they've grown over the past four years (and especially this year), and where they stand now - their fears for their futures. Willow still worries that she's the same pushover geek she was before she came into her power. Giles has concerns that he's given up the possibility of a real life and family, in taking Buffy on as his surrogate daughter - a daughter, moreover, who doesn't even seem to need him anymore. Xander, still listless in his vocation and scared of climbing out of the basement to become his parents, sees himself as a brother to Buffy, a sexual object to basically every other female in his life, and someone who will never be a son to Buffy's surrogate father (that place being held, evidently, by Spike - har har har). And Buffy - dear, brilliant, strong Buffy - Buffy's dream is more fraught with premonitions, because that's what Slayers do, but she's clearly concerned with the source of her power, the question of what makes her who she is - something that gets explored in a variety of ways (Dracula, Dawn as an extension of Buffy's innocence, even the question of Toth splitting Buffy into Slayer and Civilian).

Okay so um that last paragraph is stuff I guess I didn't say enough of in our Restless post. Sorry about that.

Lest you think I love this season unequivocally, arc-wise in terms of overall story, Season Four is kind of a hot mess. And it's too bad. I think I already discussed this, but I remember being SO EXCITED the first time I watched this season, realizing the dichotomy that was being set up.between Buffy the plucky individual, destroying evil with fairly simple tools and her wits, and the Initiative, this large government-run lummox of an organization, trumping Buffy in both manpower and technology, but lacking in subtlety and any understanding of how to outsmart a demon. And that was going to be so cool. It was going to be really exciting and a celebration of the individual and then, well. And then Adam happened. And instead it was about him. And just. Yuck. So even if they managed to shuffle everything along into that satisfying finale, they missed so much potential, and I shake my head in disappointment.

But then I console myself with remembering Who Are You and Superstar and even New Moon Rising and try desperately to forget that Where the Wild Things Are was a thing

I try, anyway.

Daniel's Thoughts:
Ditto.  Pretty much.

Tune in next week for Daniel's Essay: In Defense of Riley Finn, or  Why Riley Finn is the Perfect Boyfriend.

Yep.  You read that right.  Stay tuned!