Poor, misunderstood Riley Finn. Chronologically falling between Angel and Spike, Riley was one of Buffy's three main love interests on the show, but the endless debate 'who was Buffy meant to be with?' tends to be a binary discussion, with Buffy's sole major non-vampire love interest cast by the wayside.
There are many reasons why this should be the case: all in all, Riley is not an especially loveable character, in Season Four being unnervingly clean-cut and goody-goody, and in Season Five being excessively whiny and needy. Riley was well-written, but ultimately spoke to a real truth that exists in the real world all the time: that no matter how much someone can try, how much someone can adapt, some people are just not meant to be together, however much you might 'will' it to be different. In that, I mean not only Riley and Buffy as love interests but Riley and the rest of the Scoobies as confidantes, comrades and team-members. Riley might get a harder time than he deserves, but even at that it's tough to view his exit from Sunnydale with anything but relief.
Anyway, getting his start with 185 words in Joss Whedon's “The Freshman”, Riley manages to appear in an amazing 20 of 22 episodes in his first season – the two he misses are episodes two and three, “Living Conditions” and “The Harsh Light of Day”. Marc Blucas is a regular member of the cast from episode ten on, by the time he's not merely a TA but Buffy's love interest and a member of the secret quasi-military organisation that serves as a major part of the season. Number five on the list of characters for season four, he's important enough to the season to break 1000 words on two occasions (“The Initiative”, 1038 words and a #1, and “Doomed”, 1007 words and a number two), rank number five twice, number four five times, number three twice (“A New Man”, 516 words, and “This Year's Girl”, 453 words), number two twice (the other being “Goodbye Iowa”, 813 words) and number one once. At the other end, though, he gets only 22 words in “Wild at Heart”
Riley is so very central to the story of season four that (a) he says 7538 words in that one season alone, which is by itself more than Oz's total word count across the seasons but that (b) he seems woefully out of place in Season Five. To the writers' credit, they made that awkwardness the main thrust of Riley's role in Season Five, allowing his inability to connect with Buffy to drive his character into darker and darker places. This occurs across the first ten episodes of the season, in which he gets two number fives, one number four and three number threes, but nothing higher than that, not even “Into the Woods”, his finale, where his 624 words are a season high but are still lower than Buffy's or Xander's. He barely scrapes into the top ten this time, coming in at number nine.
While the last we see of Riley in Season Five is his flying away in a helicopter, as with several other characters, this is not the last we see of him in total. In Season Six, he gets a chance to return to town for a single episode in order to tie up loose ends. That episode, “As You Were”, is actually his third wordiest appearance, at 960 words and with a number two finish. Riley doesn't die this time either, so as he flies away a second time, this time with wife in two, we can say that he survives the end of the series, appearing in the Season Eight comic book as well.
- Overall ranking: #15
- Ranking on Buffy: #9
- Total words spoken on Buffy: 11,916
- Season 4: 7538
- Season 5: 3418
- Season 6: 960
- Total speaking appearances on Buffy: 31
- Ranking #1: 1
- Ranking #2: 3
- Ranking #3: 5
- Ranking #4: 6
- Ranking #5: 4
- Minor: 12