Buffy 5×10: Into the Woods

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Marti Noxon | Director: Marti Noxon | Aired: 12/19/2000]

“Into the Woods” is an excellent episode which provides some well needed commentary on Buffy as an individual up to this point. It accomplishes this task by focusing completely on her relationship with Riley, which of course ends here. We can see that both people in this relationship are at fault to some extent and that there are no easy answers for Buffy. In the end, Riley puts her in an incredibly unfair and difficult position, yet it accomplishes what it needed to, with the timely assistance of Xander, by forcing Buffy to make a choice with her heart, now: let Riley go or get over there and tell him you’re willing to really take this relationship to a whole new place. Alas, it’s too late and Buffy enters the beginning of a really rough period of her life.

The beginning of the end of Buffy’s Slayer-like happy years gets into gear here. The theme of all this is touched on very early in the episode when Riley hears that Buffy did actually cry over the situation with her mom’s illness, yet alone. It’s obvious here that there is a lot Riley really just doesn’t ‘get’ about Buffy. The way she shows her emotions is an example of something that eludes him. Even so, soon after this Buffy and Riley share their most genuinely romantic scene in their entire relationship, which is very pleasant to watch.

It’s obvious Buffy enjoyed her evening with Riley, in all ways, but her whole demeanor with him is that of a casual nature–that this is just a casual relationship for her. Riley wants it to be more, but for some reason won’t ever tell her that’s what he wants out of it–to take it to the next step that he’s been assuming for so long she’s been at. I believe that he can see that she’s not ready for something more serious at this time and I think he’s acting out as a way to deny this truth to himself. Of course, he had it right when he talked to Xander in “The Replacement” [5×03] . The simple fact is that Buffy is not in love with him. Buffy does treat him like a convenience rather than an equal partner, even later saying, “I can see him [Riley] any time.”

The thing is, I just don’t blame Buffy for not being ready for a deeper relationship at her age. It’s Riley’s fault it took him so long to realize he wants more than Buffy’s ready to give. This is what has lead Riley to run off and do some genuinely dumb things like, oh, willingly getting suck jobs from vampire girls. I’ve always understood Riley’s behavior, but that doesn’t excuse him when he goes too far in expressing his denial. Buffy’s reaction to seeing Riley like this later is spot on: unable to utter a word, just “uh…” When she gets home we see some wonderful expressions: pain, sickness, and hurt.

With Riley’s secret now exposed, no thanks to Spike, he charges off to Spike’s crypt to vent his anger at him. This leads to a great, great chat between the two of them that really sets up the whole Spike/Buffy relationship to come. I particularly love it when Riley asks Spike “You actually think you’ve got a shot with her?” and he immediately replies, “No, I don’t. Fella’s gotta try, though. Gotta do what he can.” Spike goes on to tell Riley that he’s not the “long haul guy.” However, I think Spike is wrong here. All Riley seems to want is to be the long haul guy. Regardless of my knowledge of future episodes, I always got the feeling off Riley that he wants to be married, have kids, and barbeque on the back porch. It’s the fact that Buffy can’t have this life at this time that ruins the relationship from Riley’s perspective. Although Spike is somewhat correct when he says Buffy needs some monster in her man, I don’t think it’s that simple. She doesn’t need it but rather she’s just attracted to it. Spike is dead on in pointing out that that’s not in Riley’s nature. Spike says maybe he got the better deal when he tells Riley, “to be that close to her, and not have her…” But then he understandably quickly reconsiders that position.

Later on Riley confronts Buffy in the training room over everything that’s happened. He claims that when this vamp ‘thing’ started it was an immature game (yep), and that he wanted to even the score with the Dracula issue. He asks the question, “why do Dracula and Angel have so much power over you?” While I feel Riley overstates their alleged powerful aura, he does have a good reason to ask why those creatures excite her. I’m sure some of it has to do with her nature as a slayer, but some of it is just that she still has a bit of a thing for the darker parts of those characters’ personalities. Although, most of the Dracula thing was pure mind control, so I think Riley’s placing too much emphasis on that encounter.

At least Riley admits all of this vamp mess is his fault, because it is. Buffy poses the important question, “what could those whores give you that I couldn’t” and Riley replies, “they needed me.” Interesting. Riley desperately wants to be needed, and the fact of the matter is that he’s not in Buffy’s world. He really should have gotten a job. Imagine how “needed” he’d have been with a steady income after Buffy’s mom had died. I like how Riley also admits to Buffy that it’s hard having a girlfriend that’s much stronger than him. Buffy essentially says that this is who she is, somewhat out of necessity because of the slayer issue, but she seems pretty unwilling to admit that her slayer complex makes it difficult to have a really mutual, deep relationship. This is the moment Riley realizes that it’s over, and he announces the military deal to her. The ultimatum he gives her is extremely unfair, but I get at what he’s trying to do here. Riley then wants Buffy to hit him as a sign that she has any kind of strong emotions over him, but she just walks out. This is a pretty immature response from Riley though. The only time Buffy ever hit Angel when they were together was when he was either evil or dying.

After an extremely cool fight sequence outside where Buffy just tears apart a big group of vamps, Xander confronts Buffy on the touchy subject at hand as she tries to flee from him, wanting to deal with her emotions alone again. After he sees Buffy’s expression and pause earlier on after mentioning getting Riley, we know that he knows exactly what’s going in that relationship. He says, “it’s right in front of my Xander-face.” Buffy says she thought Riley was “dependable”–the normal guy. Xander replies with fitting amusement, “what is he, State Farm?” Xander nails it when he says, “You got burned with Angel … and you shut down. And you’ve been treating Riley like the rebound guy.” There’s just no way she can deny this truth and she doesn’t try to.

While I think Xander overstates Riley’s virtues when he says, “he’s the one that comes once in a lifetime,” Riley does have positive qualities and is a really nice man. What Xander says from this point on says it all: “if you really think you can love this guy … I’m talking scary, messy, no-emotions-barred need … if you’re ready for that … then think about what you’re about to lose.” As I’ve pointed out before, Buffy thinks of Riley just as a boyfriend and not a really serious relationship (think possibly marriage and children). Riley’s always wanted a serious relationship with her and was incorrect in assuming she was on the same page as him all this time. But Xander here essentially asks, do you want a serious relationship with this guy? Can you open yourself up emotionally again like you did with Angel? Buffy’s response is that yes, she does want to give this a real try. But, alas, it’s just too late and there endeth Buffy and Riley. 😦

To tie up some loose ends I’m going to briefly touch on Spike and Xander. First off, I really enjoyed seeing Spike’s selfish attempt to ‘help’ Buffy out by giving away Riley’s little secret. He is so happy that he got Riley caught but comes to quickly reconsider that feeling when he sees its effect on Buffy. I noticed Spike showing an expression of surprise when he sees Riley first leave Buffy’s house in the middle of the night. I know what Spike must be thinking: “why in the world would he be leaving Buffy’s bed for anything!?” I also want to point out Xander’s, quite frankly, stunning speech to Anya after he gives advice to Buffy on her relationship with Riley. It is just… amazing beyond words. Great character development doesn’t even begin to describe it! I’m reminded of how expertly this was done in “New Moon Rising” [4×19] , where one character’s experience effects the views of another in a profound way. Excellent.

Well, that’s about it for this one. “Into the Woods” proves to be a captivating episode about relationships, love, and committment. A lot of important development came from the lessons learned here. I thouroghly enjoyed this one from both the analytical and fun factor standpoints. Great stuff!

Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Buffy continuing to stroke Dawn’s hair, almost like she can’t help it.
+ The tension-filled opening scene at the hospital, especially with Buffy’s fiddling with her hands.
+ Giles and Xander stopping just before hugging each other at the good news on Joyce’s recovery.
+ Buffy reacting surprisingly cool when she wakes up to find Spike standing over her bed!
+ The multi-named banner for all the different holidays.
+ Riley staking Spike with a plastic wood grain stake. Very shocking moment first time you see it.
+ The song that plays as Buffy’s running to Riley at the end. Overly dramatic? Maybe. But I found it really moving.


* Willow and Anya’s angry bantor is continued here and becomes the focus of the next episode, “Triangle” [5×11].




132 thoughts on “Buffy 5×10: Into the Woods”

  1. [Note: bookworm posted this comment on September 29, 2006.]

    I don’t like the Buffy/Riley-arc in s5 too much (as everybody will have noticed), because it neglects everything which Buffy had done for Riley in s4. she risked her life to save him. and now they built this story about her not being sufficiently invested in the relationship. I don’t know, it didn’t seem right to me. And I didn’t like that they didn’t show her having second thoughts on their relationship too, I really wanted to see that, as a matter of fact. But at least, it’s over now.


  2. [Note: bookworm posted this comment on September 29, 2006.]

    and thank god, that you posted a new review. I already had brutal withdrawals of lacking buffy-wisdom.


  3. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on September 29, 2006.]

    Keep in mind that Buffy risks her life every day to save people she doesn’t know and that she’d do what she did for Riley for any of her other friends. That’s the point, Buffy never really thought of Riley as anything more than a boyfriend, which is fine except for the fact that Riley really wanted more than that. Lots of misintentions and miscommunication involved here is what caused all these problems. So I don’t believe what Buffy had done for Riley in S4 is undermined by S5 at all.


  4. [Note: Rick posted this comment on September 29, 2006.]

    Sorry Mike, I’m leading towards Bookworm on this one. Remember Buffy season 4??? Limerance, limerance, limerance. Her obsession with Riley was obvious. And yes, I acknowledge that this comes with any new relationship, but I think the writers could have done a better job depicting Buffy’s detachment from Riley in S5. I agree that she could have been more ‘there,’ but it was almost done too subtly. I for one never really noticed stark deficiencies in their relationship; nothing that couldn’t have been fixed with a good talk anyways. With slaying and a sick mom, Riley should have been more understanding. He, therefore, bears most of the blame for this mess imo, even though I understand his position.

    In regards to Xander’s talk with Buffy, I believe it to be compatible to the preceding opinion. Despite the fact that Riley was being unfair and ridiculous, Buffy needed to chase after Riley. After all, “who cares if it’s fair?” What is at stake transcends the issue of reasonableness. She should first save this awesome guy and then punish his understandable childishness.

    Let me just add….Anya is hilarious in this episode!!!

    Also, Mike…I was thinking of writing a piece about Buffy’s complexity as a character, which I feel will be better suited outside forum discussions. If it’s good enough, pending your review, do you think I could submit it to the editorial page when I’m finished (which might be never considering my insanely busy schedule)?


  5. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on September 30, 2006.]

    Hmm. I seemed to recall picking up on a change in their relationship in S5 immediately, even the first time through. I feel this development throughout S5 was very well done. When “Into the Woods” came around, I really wasn’t surprised. Although I do believe the two of them could have worked out many of their issues (still no guarantee it would last even then) if Buffy had got to Riley in time.

    In response to your other question, my answer is yes. If I feel it’s good enough (not necessarily meaning I agree with your opinion, of course) and that it fits being in the Editorials section, I would indeed be willing to put it up there. I look forward to reading the paper regardless though. 🙂


  6. [Note: cayayofm posted this comment on September 30, 2006.]

    I really agree with Mikejer here.While Buffy was all over Riley in season 4, this comes with a new relationship. Let’s not forget Buffy was on the rebound. Riley captures her attention and takes her mind away from Angel. She is very into him in season 4, but Buffy is totally different after her enconter with the First slayer in ‘Resltess’, she mentions this in ‘Buffy Vs Dracula’ an right away we star seeing some problems. Riley is suprised that Buffy told them about her encounter with Dracula right away. Then we see how it gets to him that Buffy was bitten by Dracula. From ‘Real Me’ and foward we see that Buffy has a lot going on with her,her focus on slaying, new training, Dawn, and Riley is not her main focus like he used to be in season 4. He picks up this here in ‘Real Me’, in ‘Out of My Mind’, ‘Family’ and so on.

    While I find the score given by Mikejer a little high, I like this epiosde and agree with the review.


  7. [Note: Rick posted this comment on September 30, 2006.]

    Hmmm, I’m going to have to watch early season five again to take a closer look. I agree with most of what you guys are saying in terms of the distance between the two; however, when it comes to laying blame, I tend to do so mostly on Riley for aforementioned reasons. Regardless, thanks cayayofm for the input. Your starting to convince me.


  8. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on September 30, 2006.]

    Just to make myself clear, I’m also of the opinion that most of the problems in the Buffy/Riley relationship are Riley’s fault. Buffy’s no saint though, she made some mistakes too and I’ve pointed them out. Overall, though, I certainly agree with you that Riley was much more at fault than Buffy.


  9. [Note: cayayofm posted this comment on September 30, 2006.]

    I think too that Rikey is most to blame for the faults. Buffy was clear with him in “Dommed” of how the relationship could go and that the slayer stuff was a lot to deal with, however, he accepted the challenge. I just wanted to point out that she slowly changed her treatment of Riley, she really pushed him away, but I still think he was wrong in doing what he did and later giving her an ultimatum.

    I always liked how in Buffy a lot of the times everyone had strong points, no one was wrong or right, in this case they both made mistakes, but they both had strong arguments, and you as a viewer are forced to choose your side.


  10. [Note: bookworm posted this comment on October 2, 2006.]

    I just don’t like the story-arc, because it’s contradictory to the arc in s.4. in s.4 we were led to believe, that Buffy’s total into Riley, and now of the sudden she’s not.
    With the s.4-finale I got my hopes up, that Buffy checks, that she and Riley won’t work out because of different opinions on rationality, monster-handling, the “black-and-white” Vs. “shades-of-grey”-stuff, but they had to make this stupid arc, where she doesn’t love him enough. I know, that they built it up from minute one of the fifth season, but I don’t like how they handled it, and it contradicts s.4.
    and it leaves Buffy more or less as a victim.


  11. [Note: Davo posted this comment on October 9, 2006.]

    The easiest way to explain Buffy and Riley’s relationship is to compare how things would have changed if she had been with Angel, in my opinion.
    Buffy would have given her all to Angel: he would have been the one comforting her after her mother’s illness, giving her advice about her slayer heritage & helping her out with the whole Dawn thing.
    Riley was unable to do any of those things because Buffy wouldn’t let him: he was a convenience to her, the “day off” line in this episode proves that. He provided comfort, but not the emotional support he would have liked to give her.
    However, none of that excuses his behaviour with the whore-vamps. Buffy’s mother was ill, and she was in a really fragile state: the way he acts is incredibly selfish.
    However, Buffy’s lack of concern about her relationship with Riley, the fact she doesn’t realise the distance between them, or even look to him as her ‘rock’ when her mother’s ill all signify that she isn’t prepared to give her all to him, and that’s ultimately what convinces him to leave.


  12. [Note: Chebonne posted this comment on December 2, 2006.]

    I agree with you here, about Riley. I can understand why – but he is really damn stupid about it. I also think that buffy should be angrier with him than she was – I mean, the two-bit vampiren trolls, the ultimatum, the whinging… it’s a little too much.

    I am happy, though, that you mention that fantastic scene between Spike and Riley when Riley stabs him. I love that second before the act-break when Spike’s body convulses around the stake and you’re convinced the guy is dust. This is also one of the reasons as to why I think that James Marsters is such a great actor; the nuances in his acting here. And when he visibly has to snap himself out of going on about Buffy… aww (even though it’s about sex, but ‘aww’ nevertheless.)

    But concerning when he says “you’re not the long haul guy and you know it” I always took it as Riley not being the long haul guy for Buffy, not Riley being a long haul guy period. I don’t know if Spike himself wishes to be that long haul guy (which he in a sense is, because they’ve been surreptitiously attracted to each other since second season…) but I think he knows at this point that if there is such a thing as a long haul guy for Buffy at this point it would be someone with “a little monster” in him, i.e. Angel. I think he can see that Riley isn’t a guy Buffy would consider settling down with, hence the “long haul guy” comment.


  13. [Note: Tranquillity posted this comment on February 19, 2007.]

    I don’t mind this episode, lots of nice moments as mentioned in the excellent review. One thing i hate about this episode is Xander’s speech to Buffy regarding her relationship with Reilly. Who is Xander to say what Buffy needs, or what she’s giving up. I mean Xander is the most clueless guy in the universe and it’s crazy that he would suddenly have such ‘insight’ into Buffy and Reilly. I think it says more about him than Buffy and in a sense he’s talking from a selfish point of view, saying well i really admire Reilly and can accept Buffy being with such a guy better than say, an Angel or Spike who he always really resented. That’s just my point of view.


  14. [Note: Lulu posted this comment on August 26, 2007.]

    I don’t support your point of view, Tranquillity, I think Xander thought that Riley was a good boyfriend who can make Buffy happy. I don’t see any selfishness in his speech. As for how he came to the insight, Riley had told him that Buffy didn’t love him, and after that Xander started to notice how Buffy neglects Riley and how it affects him badly.


  15. [Note: WorldWithoutShrimp posted this comment on August 26, 2007.]

    Also, while Xander is often clueless, this is not the first or last time that he would give insightful speeches. Remember “The Freshman”?

    I don’t see any selfishness in his speech either. And while Xander did resent Angel, I don’t think he ever resented Spike, he just didn’t like him very much (neither did most people, for that matter).

    I think Xander thought that it would be possible for Buffy and Riley to work out, and while he realized that what Riley was doing was unfair, he also realized that Buffy would have to do something or otherwise it would be over. Xander does not tell Buffy what she needs or wants, he asks her if what she needs and wants is Riley, and tells her, if so, she will have take action right away. That’s my $0.02 on the issue. 🙂


  16. [Note: Austin posted this comment on August 29, 2007.]

    I’ve never understood why Buffy does run after Riley. I don’t think either of them where under the delusion that it would ever work between them in the long run. I’ve thought that she just doesn’t want him to leave in that manner, but I have no doubt that it would have ended badly in the end.


  17. [Note: Austin posted this comment on August 29, 2007.]

    Oh yeah, I always thought it was interesting that she didn’t tell Riley that she was at the helipad, it is interesting to think what would have happened if he came back single under the same circumstances and he had been beating himself up for leaving her and then they have a big sloppy reunion, of course, that wouldn’t have worked on BtVS but it is an interesting prospect. Anyway I admire Buffy’s respect and maturity for not bringing that up and I’m really glad she got along with Sam


  18. [Note: gabrielleabelle posted this comment on November 12, 2007.]

    Interesting bit of irony during the Riley/Spike scene (which is awesome, btw). Spike tells Riley he’s the lucky one even though he never really “has” Buffy. Just cause he’s with her, he’s lucky. Spike gets just that in the next season where Buffy uses him for sex and treats him much, much worse than Riley.

    Personally, when Riley gave Buffy the ultimatum, I was ready for him to leave. Perhaps it’s the principle of the thing, but I would never stand that somebody doing that to me. That being said, I did enjoy Xander’s talk with Buffy. I don’t agree with everything he said to her. But I understand he was coming to her from the “guy” perspective and giving her another point of view.

    But it’s just the fact that they had that moment that I love. I like seeing Xander in the “big brother” role with Buffy. We see that quite a bit more at the beginning of S7.

    Anyway, I liked Riley in S4. In S5, I was ready for him to leave. I can see his grievances, but I’m on Buffy’s side on this one.


  19. [Note: BreakAtmo posted this comment on November 24, 2007.]

    I personally loved Xander’s speech in this. I don’t find it unrealistic, we’ve seen this coming since the end of The Replacement. I think it’s a classic reminder of how important he is – he may not have super-powers, but he’s an empath who loves his friends.

    Regarding Riley’s ultimatum, I took it not as, “Tell me if you love me right now”, so much as, “These guys need me, and I feel I should help them, but I won’t if there’s a reason to stay”. The time limit was only due to the fact that the chopper was leaving at midnight – I’m sure if Riley thought he could’ve convinced them to wait longer, he would have.


  20. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on November 24, 2007.]

    I just don´t get why Riley gets so upset with the fact that Buffy doesn´t cry around him. That just bugs me but I think that Buffy is to blame too when she says it´s a slayer thing. She always does that, always faces the problems alone.
    Although I think Buffy made a lot of mistakes as well (and it´s funny because she doesn´t want to face those mistakes), Riley was the one who really blew it. Instead of talking to Buffy in an honest way, he goes arounf being bit by vampires.


  21. [Note: Nix posted this comment on February 3, 2008.]

    As a stylistic note, the slow-intercut-to-departing-person technique used here is pretty much identical to that used when Faith departs at the end of _Who Are You?_.


  22. [Note: Plain Simple posted this comment on February 26, 2008.]

    There are two thins that bothered me when I recently watched this episode again. The first is a minor technical thing. The flow of events when Spike discovers Riley’s suck jobs is lacking smoothness. We first have the scene where Spike sees Riley leaving Buffy’s house for the suck jobs. Next scene is the Buffy-Joyce hospital conversation the next day, then comes the military guys scene where they’re discussing about getting Riley back and then suddenly we get Spike standing over Buffy’s bed. I feel something is missing there.

    A bigger point plotwise is the ending of the episode. The turn of events makes it look like the reason Buffy and Riley broke up is because Buffy was one minute too late at the helicopter site. Had she come earlier, everything would have been hunky dory. That seems to disregard everything that came before.and I don’t like it. When you carefully build up to this conclusion, then when, in the end, let it depend on such a coincidental thing as being a minute late?


  23. [Note: Macuga posted this comment on July 31, 2008.]

    Does anyone else think that Buffy is dead-on when she accuses Xander of treating Anya like a convenience, after he accuses her of doing the same with Riley? After that, Xander goes back home and grandly proclaims his love for Anya–but I’m not convinced. I think perhaps it took Buffy’s harsh remarks to guilt Xander into finally taking Anya seriously.


  24. [Note: Paula posted this comment on July 31, 2008.]

    And while Xander did resent Angel, I don’t think he ever resented Spike, he just didn’t like him very much (neither did most people, for that matter).

    This is something really for the next review (Seeing Red) when it comes, but…

    I figure Xander pretty much thought (in late S5 and S6) that if there was one guy around who had even less of a chance with Buffy than he himself had (or had ever had), that was definitely Spike. And he downright enjoyed having Spike the Chip Head around for him to ridicule for that very reason. (Remember that while he came to know Spike had a serious crush on Buffy, that’s pretty much all he knew before Entropy – unlike, say, Riley, who obviously didn’t like to find Buffy sleeping with “that idiot” but was hardly astonished about it, either.)

    So in late S6 when Xander finds out about Buffy having had an affair with Spike, hello to disappointment in Buffy and her guy standards and to resentment for her not having told him anything, but also to quite a bit of humiliation (which I gather Spike relished).

    Admirably complicated stuff, as a matter of fact.


  25. [Note: Shular posted this comment on August 29, 2008.]

    “Riley’s always wanted a serious relationship with her and was incorrect in assuming she was on the same page as him all this time.”

    Have to disagree with this. Riley KNEW Buffy wasn’t on the same page. He was staying with her in the hopes that, eventually, she would get to that page.

    I, apparently, seem to be a minority of one in having complete sympathy for Riley. Yes, he messed up big-time with the vampire stuff (okay, so he’s not perfect…who is?), but as far as I’m concerned his only mistake regarding the relationship was not confronting Buffy earlier with how he felt. But I can understand why that didn’t happen. As I said above, he was hoping that Buffy would grow to love and need him on her own.

    I find it funny that people feel a need to blame someone for the breakup, as if there needs to be a fault somewhere. This is the kind of mentality that results in people stuck in bad relationships. Sometimes it’s just not meant to be, and if people worry about being to blame for it not working out, then they’ll continue on with the wrong person to avoid feelings of guilt for its failure. Neither Buffy nor Riley are to BLAME for the failure of their relationship. Buffy neither loved nor needed Riley, and would never grow to. Riley realized there was really no point in waiting for something that would never come, but he decided to give it one last hail Mary in confronting her with his feelings. When Buffy ran to try to catch Riley before he left, I don’t believe that she’d had some revelation that she loved him, but simply a misguided effort to try to keep things going. Subconciously, she knew Riely was right, and theat’s why she was unable to get there in time.


  26. [Note: Rosie posted this comment on December 23, 2008.]

    Shular’s description of the end of the Buffy/Riley relationship strikes me as being the only one that really makes sense. After all, it takes two to break up a relationship. Riley should have taken the time to make a life for himself outside of Buffy. Then again, perhaps the reason he had failed to do so was that the only life he really wanted was in the military. Personally, I see nothing wrong with that. As long as Riley went through life with his eyes opened and without the naivety that Maggie Walsh had exploited in the past . . . he could be on the right track. But Riley tried to make his life all about Buffy (just as Spike would attempt in the next two seasons) and it was a mistake on his part. Even worse, he failed to inform Buffy of his true feelings until it was too late. He had failed to communicate with Buffy.

    On the other hand, Buffy had been using Riley as rebound from Day One of their relationship. She was not only rebounding from Angel’s departure, but also from the idea of a relationship with a supernatural being. And it was a mistake. There is a chance that some part of her had deep feelings for him, but I doubt that it was enough for a long term relationship. But the one thing that really annoyed me was Buffy’s habit of treating Riley like fine china, following the operation to remove his physical enhancements in “Out of My Mind”. She failed to remember that Riley was an experienced demon hunter, who could help her deal with vampires, demons, etc. a little more effectively than the other Scoobies. It almost seemed as if Buffy was treating Riley with a patriarchal air. And that was a major mistake for a masculine personality such as Riley.

    Perhaps that was the problem with the pair. Both, in their own way possessed a masculine persona. And instead of a balance between two people, it created conflict in the end.


  27. [Note: Scoobasteve83 posted this comment on September 29, 2009.]

    “The only time Buffy ever hit Angel when they were together was when he was either evil or dying.”
    Well, that’s not actually true. In Ats S1 Buffy hits Angel when he refuses to deal with Faith the way she wants it… He was neither dying nor evil at this point.


  28. [Note: Cirrus posted this comment on November 5, 2009.]

    I have to admit, this episode didn’t strike me that much when I first watched it. I would rather skip it straight to Triangle, which I thought was a perfect balance between many elements of the show — this was just sort of the parts I’m not so fond of.

    Plus, I really didn’t like Xander here. Not only did he appear at least a little OOC, but he randomly popped out of nowhere once Buffy walked away from Riley in the training room – or at least, that’s how it seemed to me… plus, he totally overstated Riley.

    Plus, didn’t Riley sort of cheat? He went to another woman for pleasure. Until Buffy called them whores, I was completely wondering why she didn’t just hit him or something. Riley was very unfair of her — basically putting the blame on her for what he did, and then giving her an ultimatum. At least Angel did it gradually, and was willing to compromise a bit more.

    I really really don’t think this episode was deserving of a near perfect score. Perhaps a B. But then, I was never a fan of Buffy/Riley and thought it got far more focus than was necessary, especially when compared to Buffy/Angel — which was just as developed, much more interesting, and still didn’t take itself so damn seriously. Buffy/Riley lagged on far too long than I enjoyed, though I will admit it was all a rather realistic relationship.

    The one thing I really liked was the pure “Buffy” (show) moment at the end, where Buffy ran to meet Riley before he went, and was too late. As mentioned by Shular, I don’t think it was because she realised her love, either, she just felt like she had to do it. AND she was too late. It was really nice to see, in a totally non-sadistic way…!


  29. [Note: Masbrillante posted this comment on November 14, 2009.]

    I guess I just disagree with most people that Riley’s “ultimatum” is really unfair. Riley has basically been rotting away in Sunnydale ever since his decision to follow the Scoobies resulted in his discharge from the army. Even though he did the right thing by opting not to follow a morally bankrupt research initiative, he had to sacrifice an entire identity built around the strong military man.

    There is never any evidence that Riley, personality-wise, is cut out for much else. He was willing to sacrifice all of that the first time for a potential relationship with Buffy, but I think it was fair for him to ask her if he should sacrifice it yet again for her, or if he should just go. The mission in Belize was a once in a lifetime opportunity (I don’t think there’s any doubt that they wouldn’t ask again), as was a potential relationship with Buffy. While his choice came at undoubtedly bad timing, I think he was right to ask Buffy to make a choice to help him make his. Personally, I think that if she were really in love with him she would have had a much stronger reaction. And I think that if she had – cried, screamed, hit him, even condemned him for hurting her when he asked that question – he would have stayed. But she just walked away, proving that he needed to pursue his other option.


  30. [Note: Elianne23 posted this comment on December 1, 2009.]

    In response to scoobasteve83 –

    Buffy and Angel weren’t together (ie. in a relationship) during the

    Faith episodes of AtS S1.

    Technically you’re right, but their relationship had ended and there

    was some intense anger that Buffy felt towards Faith for sleeping

    with Riley. When she saw that Angel was protecting Faith, she just

    blew – wrongly of course, but that’s what she did.


  31. [Note: Wulvaine posted this comment on December 3, 2009.]

    I honestly hate Riley and am not sad to see him go, but this episode would be great for Xander alone.

    Xander is the glue that holds the Scoobies together, and I strongly disagree with the person who said he was clueless. He has incredibly bad luck, and he has made a lot of mistakes, but he’s grown so much. These flashes of insight and moments of true maturity that we see from him on occasion are, in my opinion, glimpses of a truly adult Xander. He’s growing up. He’ll always maintain his lovable snarkiness and sense of humor, but as the series progresses, he’s finding himself and his purpose.

    He’s not just comic relief. Xander, for all his failings, is the heart of the Scooby Gang. He’s very intuitive with his friends, and while he isn’t superpowered, he’s still an essential element.


  32. [Note: Randy posted this comment on December 24, 2009.]

    I think Xander was right to lay out the big picture for Buffy (for her own personal growth), but it’s a good thing she missed that chopper. Everyone’s so quick to blame either Riley or Buffy for the relationship implosion, but really, these two aren’t well-suited for each other at all. She needs someone who can keep up with her, and he’s a guy who needs to be the alpha dog in a relationship. Even if he got his act together, got back into the military and made a non-Buffycentric life for himself, it was never gonna work. This doesn’t make him a bad person; just not the right guy for her.


    I just finished watching AtS S1 Ep7 where Buffy visits LA and Angel becomes human. Everything’s all peachy for them for a little while, but I’m betting in the long run, they would’ve ended up with a lot of the same issues as Riley/Buffy.

    And on an unrelated note, for my money, this episode had the coolest vampire ass-kicking scene of the season, and possibly the whole series…


  33. [Note: Zaphe posted this comment on December 28, 2009.]

    I just wanted to say how much I like the scene when Buffy rushed out of the vampire nest after what she saw. Spike ran after her with a hint of glee on his face then when he stopped saw the horror and hurt on Buffy face, the change of his expression from glee to bewilderment is just masterful. Sarah also did a wonderful in this scene and the scene in her bedroom.

    After experiencing the wonderful multi-layered acting from JM, SMG and AH in Buffy, now when I watched other shows, I often feel that most of the acting in TV series are just too two-dimensional. Majority of the time, they are just competent and not brilliant. Unlike the ones in Buffy, the actors/ress live in their characters and you can just tell what they are thinking or how they feel just by looking at their faces. I am so spoilt by Buffy.


  34. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on May 25, 2010.]

    I’d disagree that both parties were both at fault. None of this can be blamed on Buffy. Riley really turned into a jerk over the last few episodes, and that was problematic for me. I felt it was out-of-character. Also, that last scene was way too melodramatic.

    Loved Xander and Buffy, though. And Xander and Anya.


  35. [Note: Lizzie posted this comment on June 13, 2010.]

    Oh, I think it was obvious from the very beginning of their relationship back in season 4 that Buffy did’t feel about Riley the way she felt about Angel. I mean, in season 1,on the very first episode I knew how much Buffy was attracted to Angel, and I knew that she would fall for him really hard, but, on the other hand, with Riley, she didn’t even pay attention to him when she met him. I bet she just started the relationship with him to get over Angel, because it was clear from day one that Riley and Buffy weren’t meant to last. Buffy just need a vampire in her life!


  36. [Note: Shiny posted this comment on July 9, 2010.]

    Rosie completely encapsulated how I feel about the Buffy/Riley relationship and its end. I just don’t see it as terribly astute to put all the blame on one person; they both screwed up. One minor part that irritates me is that we see Buffy understanding her part in the break-up, but not Riley (as he’s gone). He doesn’t even deal with his own culpability regarding the vamp-whore thing, swiftly defending himself by attacking Buffy — talking about how they needed him and she didn’t. While I think Buffy is far, far from blameless in this equation, I still tend to criticise Riley a little harder. He barely took any responsibility at all for his actions, and we never got to see him doing so like we did with Buffy.

    Perhaps this is partly why he gets so much of the blame for the break-up. While Buffy contributed seriously to the relationship’s implosion, she was already in a more sympathetic position with Joyce being ill and her sister being not-her-sister, and didn’t do anything sleazy and frankly OOC with vampires (except in Spike’s daydreams :P). We also saw her consider her actions when honestly and plainly confronted with them, and try to do her part to make things right.

    Then we have Riley, who’s getting suckjobs from the undead and justifies it by saying he needed someone to make him feel needed, basically just passing the buck to Buffy, and issuing an ultimatum without giving her any time to process what he’d done, nevermind why he’d done it. His issues with Buffy’s strength and self-reliance have been well-documented, as was his competitive attitude towards she and Angel’s relationship. Riley’s part in the downfall stretches beyond emotional distance, but he blames her distance for all of it.

    While Buffy was truly treating him as the rebound guy, and didn’t show the passion for him she once had or the emotional ‘need’ he was so desperate to see, she’s also willing to see from another’s perspective how wrong her actions have been. Riley, on the other hand, contributed equally to the break-up and lacks this ability to step back and look at his own actions. Xander had already tried to talk to him about his weird decisions before — not showing up for patrol, taking out a vamp nest solo — but Riley shrugs those off. Perhaps not surprising, as he’s got a history of avoiding introspection. Hell, he didn’t even know he fancied Buffy during season four. The guy doesn’t like to think about his own stuff.

    Ultimately, I don’t think the relationship would’ve worked out. Both characters have issues with communication, and Buffy could never have made Riley her entire world as he’d made her his. She always had a mission, and he thought he could be the mission’s boyfriend rather than pursue a new career (I think he’d have made a good firefighter, personally) and that’d be enough for him. While she was guilty of being too distant, I think Riley was guilty of being just the opposite. She’s twenty-one; it’s not a great age at which to get married after a year of dating. As his hasty marriage to Sam proves, Riley tends to get emotionally involved fast and heavily, and that wouldn’t have suited cookie-dough Buffy.

    Still, the way it ended was just plain horrible. It’s a torture-Buffy sequence, heavy on the empathetic audience pain. Poor girly D:


  37. [Note: sarah posted this comment on August 10, 2010.]

    I yesterday found your reviews and I am seriously intrigued because they are really insightful and you show great depth in your analysis.

    I have my own theory concerning the Buffy/Riley relationship and the reason for its break up. I often read that people blamed a lack of love (Buffy) or jealousy (Riley). However I guess that their characters simply are incompatible which results in the conflicts written above.

    Buffy is a strong emancipated woman who reacts rather dismissive towards authority. Riley is the born soldier who likes following orders (yes, i am a bit polemic) and who has a rather old-fashioned relationship to women. He “courts” Buffy and he wants to “protect his girl”. I admit that I am not a huge fan of this attitude but I don´t want to blame him for it. After all he is a decent guy. However his protective attitude becomes rather ridiculous regarding the fact that his “girl” is the strongest human (?) in the world. I always thought that maybe this relationship could have worked if Riley realised this and a) tried to create a life of his own, b) accepted Buffy´s superior strength and supported her emotionally instead of physically.

    I had a hard time not to despise Riley for his simplistic world view, too. I accept that his idealism was abused by the Initiative but even after he left it his black and white view still was intact. I am political scientist and after seeing what attrocities humans have committed over the centuries I can´t relate to him, I am sorry.

    Of course it was not helpful that Buffy never felt that fierce love she felt for Angel. But we have to take into account that Angel was her first love, such things are always “bigger than life”. I speak from own experience when I say that later relationships tend to be more calm but also more mature and stable.


  38. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on August 10, 2010.]

    Sarah, I appreciate the kind words!

    As for Riley and Buffy, I think there actually is evidence to support that, while Riley definitely had some trouble with Buffy’s vastly superior strength, he mostly wanted to support her emotionally when she wasn’t letting him in. That’s something quite natural when you’re in love with someone. This is quite apparent throughout S5 and especially in the episodes leading up to “Into the Woods.” It goes well beyond simply her strength. Riley tells Buffy in “No Place Like Home” that “Maybe instead of you trying to take care of me, we agree to take care of each other.” That’s a pretty reasonable ask from Riley yet he sees no follow-through on it from Buffy during a time when she could really lean on him for emotional support. The problem between them really does go two ways, although I still think more of the blame lies with Riley. It was a fascinating relationship, though, and I’m glad Buffy got to experience it as it was definitely good for her in the long run.


  39. [Note: dr. horrible posted this comment on October 24, 2010.]

    Both Buffy and Riley were to blame for the failure of their relationship, but I think it was mostly Riley’s fault. If he had understood her and her slayer nature, maybe she would have loved him.


  40. [Note: Wveth posted this comment on March 16, 2011.]

    Buffy didn’t need him, so he had nothing to keep him there. You can call Riley immature and say he didn’t talk about what he did, but it didn’t matter at all at that point. Given time, of course he would have taken responsibility, of course they would have talked about it, but at -that- moment, he needed to know if there was even any reason to at all – if Buffy was going to need him more than the military.

    She didn’t. He went where he was needed.

    His bad decisions are of no consequence if he’s not needed by Buffy. He will not stay where he is not necessary.


  41. [Note: deadlego posted this comment on May 12, 2011.]

    I think Riley realises he is acting badly because he is so in love with a girl who just doesn’t want the same kind of relationship with him that he wants with her. Essentially in leaving he does what he needs to do for himself to keep his sanity.

    What I think is fantastic is that going and paying vampires to suck your blood is such a crazy thing to do, especially for someone like Riley. But the writers develop his character, and the story around him (for example Buffy becoming more and more strong and motivated to discover more about herself) in such a way that we find this totally believable of him at this point.

    I really like this episode and find it quite a suitable and satisfactory ending to the Buffy/Riley relationship. I love all the Spike bits in it, actually i find JM such a great actor and Spike so well written and fascinating that most Spike bits in the whole series are great. The bit with Riley and Spike in the crypt, from the fake staking onwards, is funny and touching-these characters bonding over their mutual love of Buffy even though she is out of both of their reaches at this point when it comes to true love.

    I definately agree with the ‘A’ grade for this one. Really great review Mike.


  42. [Note: deadlego posted this comment on May 12, 2011.]

    I liked this review so much I’ve just read it again and one point I have Mike is that when Spike says Riley isn’t ‘the long haul guy’ he means that Riley isn’t the one that Buffy will stay with long term (as pointed out by Chebonne above). Riley may be someone that wants to be Buffy’s ‘long haul guy’ and might well be a great ‘long haul guy’ for someone that wants that from him, as it seems to be going between him and Sam in S6, but to me Spike is definately saying that he’s not going to be Buffy’s choice for a long term partner (-reciprocal true love, marriage or just a long term stable relationship in which both partners want a future together).


  43. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on May 12, 2011.]

    Yeah, that makes sense. I guess I just read Spike’s comment as a broader statement than that. Next time I watch the episode I’ll take another look at that scene.


  44. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on May 13, 2011.]

    I think deadlego is definitely right there, Mike. Spike wasn’t talking about Riley, he doesn’t -care- about Riley. I never even considered your interpretation.

    I never caught that bit in the review, but I’m positive that Spike meant Buffy saw Riley as just a college boyfriend, a warm body to hang out with and have fun with without heavy pressure.

    He’s probably right, too. Not -that- hard, though, given that he was around for the whole Angel debacle.

    Besides, this way it keys in to Xander’s (misguided) speech about Riley being the once-in-a-lifetime guy. Makes a lot more sense.


  45. [Note: Nix posted this comment on July 21, 2011.]

    I just noticed something. This episode is one of only two to have Marti Noxon as director… and it is *wonderfully* shot, from the hallucinatory weirdness of Buffy and Riley’s reflected sex scene, through the vamp house, to the fight run at the end.

    I suspect we’d have seen more of her in this position if it wasn’t that she had greater responsibilities. Because she was clearly good at it.


  46. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 10, 2011.]

    As the slayer Buffy through out the years has had been on the tight rope balancing her family,friends,school/college with her slaying. At times her school work has suffered and it has lead to a fall out with her friends which has been easily solved with a heart to heart so all in all nothing drastic. Season five on the other hand has been a catalyst in Buffy’s life and the events that have occurred haven’t been conducive to her balancing act.

    Riley’s struggle to find an attachment to Buffy, to get her to feel for him as she did for Angel. Leading him to be ‘needed’ by vampire whores. His slow decent into a dark place wasn’t something Buffy was prepared for. Shadow established his feeling isolated, his troubles have always been rightfully on the sidelines. Joyce’s tumour took poignant centre stage at the beginning of the season. Riley’s constant feelings of isolation evidently have been building since the Buffy vs Dracula and this approach has prevented it from feeling melodramatic. Thus making his departure from the show his only option. Buffy at this stage of her life isn’t ready for the full commitment Riley is looking for. Into the woods has was the final straw for Buffy, she’s dropped her balance beam which is fitting for the drama that is to unfold.

    One thing i didn’t like about this episode is Buffy and Riley’s imploding doom. They have been subtle drifting apart other the previous episodes and so there argument didn’t provide any new information. The big emotional outburst didn’t seem to fit. – Just my take.

    I loved Xander in this episode being Buffy’s conscience!


  47. [Note: keekey posted this comment on December 10, 2011.]

    I never liked the “run after the helicopter” ending of this episode. I actually really liked Riley’s character but I thought the show had a done a very good job over the course of the past two seasons showing why Buffy and Riley had fundamental differences that would eventually result in their break-up. (Also, I always thought Riley’s comment to Buffy in Restless, calling her “killer” before he exits, foreshadowed that her role as the Slayer would be a problem for him eventually.) Yes, Riley was a good guy but that didn’t mean that he necessarily was a good guy for the long haul for Buffy.

    Buffy’s sudden epiphany that she wanted to make things work with Riley seemed like one of those rare instances where the show did something for drama that really didn’t seem flow from the characters’ history. And here it was like they felt that they had to show that Buffy really, in her heart of hearts, did want a normal grill-with-on-the-BBQ-with-kids-in-the-backyard kind of guy, while I think most of the series indicates the opposite–that Buffy thinks she wants a normal life but, in her hearts of hearts, she’s dedicated to her role as the Slayer and her atypical life. I also think Buffy’s embarrassment over the state of her life in “As You Were,” the following year, would have worked on an even deeper level if she’d clearly chosen NOT to be with Riley (instead of just being separated from him by bad helicopter take-off timing), as she would have to come to terms with the fact that, yes, she really did make the right decision to break up with him even if, a year later, it seems like a very bad decision.

    Anyway, just my thoughts! As I noted, I was a Riley fan (like MikeJer once wrote, I think I “shipped” each of Buffy’s boyfriends to some degree because they each seemed like an interesting match for Buffy at the time), but I think this was a good time for him to exit.


  48. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on December 10, 2011.]

    keekey, interesting point. Personally, I still think Buffy running after Riley does make sense though. The reason why is mostly because everything happens so quickly. Sure their problems have been festering for a while now, but it’s all been very subtle — at least from Buffy point of view. In this episode everything comes out in the open and Buffy’s put on the spot in reevaluating her potential future with Riley. After Xander’s speech, I think she makes a quick decision that’s very much steeped in concern over being only a slayer for the rest of her life — a concern that’s very much on her mind this season.

    I think in “Intervention” she tells Giles that she’s worried that being the Slayer is turning her “into stone.” Losing Riley, when there were no real grand obstacles in between them other than their respective personalities, is a rough blow for her, particularly in the moment. This is why I think her decision to go after Riley makes sense: she feels like, in the moment, she really does want to try to work through their problems and give the relationship a real shot at developing a future. That doesn’t mean it would have worked out, but I can certainly understand the desire to try, and I think it fits Buffy — particularly considering her relationship history (and her dad abandoning her) — quite nicely.


  49. [Note: keekey posted this comment on December 10, 2011.]

    Thanks for the response, MikeJer! I love your reviews. It has been really fun and interesting to read this site in conjunction with watching the show. I see your point that, given how quickly things come to a head in this episode with Buffy and Riley’s fight and Riley’s “ultimatum,” Buffy’s impulse (especially after talking to Xander) probably would be to try to work things out, even if the relationship turned out to be doomed eventually. That’s an interesting insight re: her relationship with her dad and how that might influence her decision to try to make things work here. I still wish they had shown her actually making the decision not to be with Riley because I think that’s what her decision eventually would have been and I would have liked to see her wrestle with the implications of that (i.e., Does she really want a “normal” guy and and “normal” life?) but that probably would have entailed dragging out the Riley/Buffy relationship a while longer and I definitely get the sense that a lot of Buffy fans would not have been in favor of that!


  50. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on December 11, 2011.]

    Thanks, keekey. I’m glad you’re enjoying the reviews. I pretty much agree with you in that it would have been nice to see Buffy continue to wrestle with the complications of her relationship with Riley a little longer, and make a more educated decision on whether he’s really what she wants and/or needs at this time in her life. It’s why, had she caught Riley in time, I would have actually enjoyed seeing how their relationship played out from there, too. The way it played out was decent, though, as it ended up forcing Buffy to reflect back on what went wrong with Riley, and it sparks a nice bit of self reflection in the following episodes, particularly in “I Was Made to Love You.”


  51. [Note: Abbie posted this comment on March 11, 2012.]

    I’ve been watching BtVS with my friend for the first time. And although these reviews are a little spoilery (make that A LOT spoilery) I love reading them and hearing insight other than my own and my friends opinions, though, for the most part, I seem to agree with you, Mike. But in this case I think you really opened my eyes to the progressive decline of the Buffy-Riley relationship when here I was thinking this was all so sudden. Ever since Riley mentioned that Buffy didn’t love him in The Replacement, I was shocked. How could he think that? And then the whole vampire prostitute thing really threw me. But your review followed by your comments helped me see the gradual deterioration of the relationship. Temporarily shocked, but not dissapointed. I’m a Spike fan all the way. I reallly hope he has a chance.

    Love your reviews! and thanks for putting the mentioned episode references in perenthesis by season and epi so I know which sentences to skip if theres a spoiler!


  52. [Note: Jess posted this comment on July 18, 2012.]

    I agree with Shular (#26) on this one. I’m one of the few who feel that Riley deserves quite a bit of sympathy. While it would be wrong to blame the breakup on either of the two, it is pretty clear how invested he is in the relationship, and how detached Buffy seems to be. The reviewer seems to condemn him unfairly in this episode. Sure, the ultimatum may have been harsh to some extent, but it was Riley’s last resort after failing to be let in by Buffy. He made some mistakes sure, but I still think he deserves a fair bit of sympathy.

    I really liked this episode and felt that it deserves a 100/100. Probably not a popular opinion, but I couldn’t see anything wrong with it and I loved the character interactions and the writing as a whole. Xander was also great in this episode and so was his speech to Buffy/Anya.


  53. [Note: NewSpock posted this comment on August 17, 2012.]

    The problems between Riley and Buffy started early in season 4. Actually since the start of their relationship it was clear that Riley was totally into Buffy but she was never in love with him. For her he was merely a boyfriend, someone to go out with, have sex with… she never let him really in. She never opened up to him like she did towards Angel.

    Remember the scene when Riley told Buffy that he were so jealous/suspiscious regarding Angel because he were so in love with Buffy that he couldn’t think straight? Buffy did not return his love-confession, she merely hugged him.

    It was imho a great moment at the start of season 5 when Riley told Xander about his love to Buffy but that he knew Buffy didn’t love him. I was amazed how perfectly Riley viewed his relationship with Buffy. And it didn’t stood out as strange, it completely underlined what I perceived during season 4 and brought it to a perfect conclusion.


  54. [Note: Less newt posted this comment on August 21, 2012.]

    There are a ton of excellent comments in this thread, and no clear consensus, which I take to mean that the writers have done something really interesting and complicated. Cool!

    Rather than argue for multiple pages all of the specifics of my views, some thoughts that I didn’t see mentioned already:

    > Relationships are not about deep feelings. Relationships are about actions. Yes, usually the deep feelings cause the actions. But what does it avail if I love you deeply or no-holds-barred need you, but don’t tell you with my actions? (including speaking)

    > The fight scene between Buffy and Riley is incredibly interesting. Both characters reveal an immense amount about where they’re coming from and what they’re feeling, in a way that isn’t comprehensive or definitive. This is one of the most realistic emotional conversations in the series, and quite powerful (and difficult).

    > Xander’s speech at Buffy is deeply flawed. He is still growing into his role as seer, and really does not see this situation as clearly as he thinks he does.

    > I think Riley does have some monster in him. When he has a clear purpose and understands his place in the world, he is a huge force for good and fights evil. When he loses those things, he goes to a very dark place. This is an interesting parallel between him and Buffy.

    > What does it mean about Riley’s worldview that he doesn’t ask the commander for more time to make the decision? There is no good reason from the military’s perspective that he can’t join up in a month, and Riley ought to know that. Yeah, they’re going out on a job and he’s right there, but that’s convenience, not necessity.

    > Why didn’t Riley stake Spike?


  55. [Note: Louisa posted this comment on October 28, 2012.]

    I remember Buffy saying that whenever she has a problem her first instinct is to run to Angel (who was unfortunately evil at the time), but she clearly doesn’t feel that way about Riley. I agree with the basic incompatibility theory. Riley is better able than most mere humans to understand Buffy’s world and her responsibility, but he doesn’t really get it the way Angel did. He still wants to follow procedure, call in the troops, and approach things in a military way. That isn’t Buffy’s way. Riley tried to see things through her lens and ended up hiring vampires to bite him. That alone shows that he could never really “get” her.


  56. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on December 29, 2012.]

    Shiny:I tend to agree with you. I also think the scene where Buffy races to the helipad is simply a marvelous metaphor for their “Doomed” relationship. Buffy did not make it on time because the relationship wasn’t meant to be.Also, of all her lovers and flings only Angel had the selflessness to understand that true love is about walking away or giving your beloved the space to find themselves. Neither Riley nor Spike had that self-awareness.


  57. [Note: Summer posted this comment on December 29, 2012.]

    I really like Shiny’s comment and think it says a lot of good things. Ah, the end of this doomed relationship. It’s a sad episode. I’m not happy with Riley for getting sucked off and being reckless. He takes blame here. But then again, he’s finding it really hard to shoehorn himself into Buffy’s world. She’s never gonna rely on him like he needs and wants her too. I noticed in Buffy’s speech to him when she says ” I’ve given you everything that I have, I’ve given you my heart, my body and soul!” She really emphasizes “body” and really, that’s all she’s given him. As we’ve noticed Buffy and Riley have sex a lot. With Riley, she could share her body. She couldn’t do that with Angel. With Angel, she could share her whole heart. Whenever something upset her or worried her back then her first instinct was to go to Angel. It’s not like that with Riley. She barely ever used him for comfort. So Buffy still hasn’t had the total package yet and it won’t be with Riley.I never felt like Buffy’s big gesture at the end was out of genuine love. Maybe she just didn’t wanna fail again. Maybe Xander’s speech helped her realize this could be something truly amazing. I don’t know. I’m pretty sure Buffy and Riley were always doomed but if Buffy showed a moment that she would be willing to give Riley just a tiny bit more emotionally I think he would have been there for the long haul, like Spike said. But he had to leave. The last part of this episode is my favorite. From Xander’s speech to the helicopter to the scene with Anya and then the sadness at the end. I watched the sequence twice in a row. It’s so beautiful. Especially when Xander tells Anya how he loves her. If anyone ever said that to me I would die. ha.Excellent episode. 95 fo sho.


  58. [Note: Arachnea posted this comment on March 4, 2013.]

    A lot has been said and I’m glad to see the differenciated points of view :).

    I believe the relationship was doomed from the start because of where Buffy was in that point of her life. Bear with me, I’m not saying Buffy’s at fault, but the circumstances were.

    She just came out of a powerful and abnormal (a vampire is not your every day guy) relation. She didn’t and still doesn’t know fully what it means to be the Slayer. So, what she needed most, Riley gave her: confidence in a normal college romance, sexually fulfilling. In a nutshell, something she hadn’t experienced.

    After the first months of obsession, sex became dominant in their relation. Riley was deeply in love and accepted everything that was Buffy, strength and all and Buffy was very infatuated with him. But at the end of the season 4, there are already hints that even though she cares deeply for Riley, she’s not in love like he is.

    In the first episodes of season 5, Buffy decides to focus on study, training, slaying and most of all discovering who and what she is. Riley is – her words – dependable. He’s always there because he doesn’t have a job and his focus is Buffy only: remember, his world has fallen apart, he’s lost his job, his friends and doesn’t have anyone to talk to. For Buffy, it is convenient to have such a boyfriend and she doesn’t realise, even if she cares, that she mostly uses him to stay grounded in reality (having a boyfriend/girlfriend, sex and affection is important in anyone’s life).

    Riley sees what’s wrong and over-compensates in a very foolish way. He does everything wrong, but mostly he forgets to communicate verbally his doubts and lack of confidence to Buffy. And Buffy is too busy and not enough in love to see that her needs are not the same as Riley’s. The relation is not balanced – Riley gave it all, Buffy took him for granted and treated him like one of the gang – thus it fails.

    In another time and other circumstances, they could have been right for each other. The other bad timing is the military proposal. It’s what Riley needs, but it comes with an expiration date. So the ultimatum isn’t fair and comes at the wrongest moment, but it’s only the catalyst that permits the relation to end. When Buffy runs to the helicopter, I believe it’s more despair – losing one of the most stable elements in her life – than deep love. For Riley, it’s a turning point where he can start to rebuild his life.

    Essentially, what I’m saying is, there is blame for some of their actions or inactions and lack of communication, but eventually their relation was coming to an end no matter what. Though I would have liked Buffy catching up, just to witness a much needed conversation and end the relation in a more satisfying way.


  59. [Note: Arachnea posted this comment on March 4, 2013.]

    “The relation is not balanced – Riley gave it all, Buffy took him for granted and treated him like one of the gang – thus it fails”. Sorry, it felt wrong to let this sentence like this. I meant that when you’re truly in love, your first instinct in a crisis, is to find the one you love to share your pain. Riley’s reactions are childish, but to be fair, Buffy uses him to take care of Dawn and never to share her anxiety or pain with Riley. She shares it with him like she does with the scoobies and this time, it’s got no


  60. [Note: Laina posted this comment on July 19, 2013.]

    “I meant that when you’re truly in love, your first instinct in a crisis, is to find the one you love to share your pain.” I somewhat agree with that since the scene that stood out most in my mind is the scene where Buffy hugs Riley in the hospital hallway then walks away to join her family (yes, I’m including Dawn) in Joyce’s room, closing the door behind her and locking Riley out. That would be a huge slap in anyone’s face and I can’t help but think if it were Giles, Willow, or Xander in Riley’s place, she would have welcomed them in. The fact that she physically shuts Riley out is extremely cold.

    That said, I can also understand Buffy’s need to protect herself. She cannot allow herself to be weak because like she said, she probably won’t be able to stop crying if she lets her emotions get the best of her. “Shadow” is the perfect example of this — there’s no denying that if Spike wasn’t in her house at the time, the alien would have killed her in her in her fragile state.

    I would also like to point out that eventhough Riley stated time and time again that he’s there for Buffy and that he would do anything he can to support her (if only she would open up and let him), he never does anything out of his own will to support that claim. Sure he hangs around the hospital, keeping her company and babysits Dawn but he never actually does anything outside of that. Willow brought things to cheer everyone up; Giles kept up to date with the demon hunting and more or less organized everyone’s schedule slaying-wise; Anya took care of the shop in support of Giles; Tara helped Dawn with her homework; and Xander helped with research and slaying to be best of his abilities. Riley, on the other hand, never took the initiative (irony) to do anything of the sort to support Buffy. He was always moping around her so she never got the chance to “miss” him. If anything, she probably felt like he was suffocating her a bit (hence the “giving him a break” comment to Joyce).

    Both party had faults but Riley’s ultimatum was sickening because he put the blame all on Buffy in the sense that if they’re relationship ends, it’s because Buffy didn’t stop him from leaving — he completely ignores is own behaviour an actions from the equation.

    On a different note, I could not agree more on Buffy’s comment on what Anya means to Xander especially knowing what’s going to happen in the next season. That little “heart-to-heart” he has with Anya at the end is just him trying to prouve to himself that he’s a good person and that Buffy was wrong; it has nothing to do with assuring Anya that he loves her since she never questioned their relationship, nor has she ever cared what other people think of her.


  61. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on November 1, 2013.]

    I think both Buffy and Riley are to blame for the failure of their relationship. I agree with a prior commenter that “blame” may be the wrong word. Not all relationships are meant to work out.

    Buffy’s physical strength and slayer duties will create problems with most relationships. She will always be a magnet for attacks and will constantly need to protect those around her, which means that most guys in her life will be threatened on two levels – both physically in a very real sense, and emotionally if their egos can’t take it. (Which is one reason Spike works for her; he’s the closest to Buffy in strength, so much so that Buffy turns to him repeatedly when she needs protection for others – in a way which she does not turn to Riley.) Riley, after he stops the drugs, is not a match for Buffy physically and emotionally his ego cannot take it. Furthermore, Buffy feels that she needs to protect Riley and so she automatically shuts him out.

    There is another problem with Riley. He comes from an environment in which he does not ask questions. He does not challenge the situation; he is trained to follow orders. It is a revelation to him to discover one bad thing after another in the organization to which he belongs. Compare this again with Spike, who is always challenging the interpretation of things.

    I think there’s no reason to be upset (at least not in the long term) by the ending of the Buffy & Riley pairing. They were both nice people, but as they got to know each other they discovered that their were incompatibilities in their characters and their situations. In a way they could not have known this before trying.

    I think, too, that Buffy is not ready for a long-haul relationship. She has only had one serious relationship before, and the pairing with Angel always had to be kept at arm’s length because of the problems with his soul. She isn’t ready – she doesn’t know how – to devote energy to a relationship that has reached the next stage, and so she blows it, or perhaps she loses interest. In a way she only chases Riley at the end because he is running away.


  62. [Note: Foxman posted this comment on February 3, 2014.]

    I was pleased to see this relationship end – not because of any particular disdain for the characters, but because this seemed like the honest conclusion of the relationship. Riley made poor choices, and I am not minimizing that he was, according to the ethos of the show, cheating on Buffy. But that said, this is not so much about blame for me as it is about a portrait of a relationship that was not going to work simply because of the personalities involved. Buffy was never going to give Riley what he needed for it to work. She wasn’t going to be emotionally vulnerable for him, she wasn’t going to let him protect her. I think the most you could hope from a charavter like that is something like a respectful partnership, amd even then she would always hold the edge. From that perspective I find him to be a very sympathetic character. I believe that he deserves sympathy even though he is duller than dirt and he made choices that were fairly vicious and unfair towards Buffy.

    Riley, more than Buffy, irreparably damaged the relationship for sure. Getting suckjobs and laying out an ultimatum like that were harsh moves on his part. But the relationship was certainly doomed way before those events transpired. Buffy was was never going to be emotionally vulnerable with him; even if Riley had been at peace about that, and I think that he actually made a lot of concessions in the relationship even if he was acting like a petulant child at times, the emotional drift would have continued. The inevitable conclusion was a break up, and it’s easier to malign Riley because his actions and choices precipitated this break up but I have no doubt that it still would have ended. I wonder how we would feel about Buffy if she had done the leaving, all other things the same? We very seldom see Buff do that, and it is an interesting counterpoint in that she actually is victimized pretty frequently in the way she’s portrayed in relationships, which is in stark contrast with her characterization in other ways.

    Faith is a compelling counterpoint if you pose her as an empowered character sexually/emotionally as well as physically. She is seldom the victim, although she achieves this by never initiating a relationship and being villainized. Come to think of it, nearly all the female characters are left rather than doing the leaving. An interesting thing to juxtapose against the theme of feminine empowerment otherwise so present in the show.


  63. [Note: FaithFanatic posted this comment on February 4, 2014.]

    In the review, you say something to the effect of: “The only time Buffy ever hit Angel when they were together when he was either evil or dying.”

    What about AtS Sanctuary?


  64. [Note: EdwardH posted this comment on February 7, 2014.]

    I’ve always wondered about Buffy and Riley’s sex life after his strength and endurance were returned to normal. It would seem that Buffy would have to restrain herself during sex with a normal human. Her strength is far greater than normal and with the emotions of sex it would probably increase her power even more. So it seems that Buffy probably always has to hold back somewhat during sex with Riley and perhaps this played a role in his going to vamp-prostitutes.


  65. [Note: Alex C. posted this comment on February 8, 2014.]

    The point is that the period when Angel was evil (“Innocence” to “Becoming”) falls very much within the stretch of the show (from mid-S1 to the end of S3) when he was unquestionably the dominant fixture in Buffy’s emotional life. Sure, they were on-again off-again for a lot of that time – it was a very unstable relationship, to say the least. But there’s no doubting that in this time they were the only significant players in each other’s romantic lives, discounting a few half-serious flings that never lasted longer than a single episode.

    By contrast, when S4 (concurrent with AtS “Sanctuary”) rolls around, Buffy has decidedly begun to ‘move on’ from Angel. Before, they had a strong emotional connection with each other even when they were mortal enemies – after, it’s just not the same anymore.

    This, hits it pretty well on the mark, I think:



  66. [Note: bimbones posted this comment on June 19, 2014.]

    Buffy has a tendency to use men doesn’t she. Riley, then Spike. The only one she didn’t use was Angel. I feel less sorry for her being used by Parker because she did the same thing to 2 men after Parker.


  67. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on June 19, 2014.]

    That’s a bizarre comparison. I can’t say I agree with it at all.

    Buffy did not use Riley. He was being wholly unreasonable given her circumstances, and most of the issues in their relationship stem from his desire to be the hero and his impatience when she refuses to be a damsel for him. Buffy has problems with emotional availability, yes, but it’s difficult to be the Slayer and she was going through a very rough period in her life. I’d say 90% of the blame falls upon Riley’s shoulders for what happened in “Into the Woods”.

    Likewise, I think you are being very harsh with your assessment of Buffy’s actions in season 6. Have you ever experienced depression? I’m guessing not, because if you had gone through it yourself or had friends and family you would understand that it can drive a person to extreme uncharacteristic behaviour. I’d also add that Buffy did tell Spike she was using him repeatedly, and if he truly understood and had a problem with it he would have broken up with her long before she ditched him in “As You Were”.

    The Parker scenario was completely different. He used her for no reason other than his own pleasure because he’s a selfish and manipulative douchebag. Buffy did not use Riley and only used Spike because she was suffering extreme depressions. This is apples and suspension bridges, I’m afraid.


  68. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on June 19, 2014.]

    Blame is the wrong term here. Buffy and Riley were not right for each other at this particular point in time. There is no blame.

    And Parker with Buffy and Buffy with Spike is very comparable. I understand your argument about Buffy’s circumstances, but she used Spike’s obsession with her to her advantage. Which is exactly what Parker did. From an actions standpoint, it’s nearly identical. From a circumstances standpoint, that’s a tricky issue.


  69. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on July 21, 2014.]

    I don’t agree at all that Parker and Spike’s situations are identical. Yes, she used his obsession to her advantage, but it was with his consent. He was a vampire, technically, she was giving the guy what he wanted, which according to her was nothing more than sex. This is only mostly in Season 6, clearly, Buffy later realizes that what Spike wants from her goes beyond just physical needs, which is the point that I feel she starts to feel for him. Plus, there was always the obscure sexual attraction these two characters always shared. Since their very first scene, in fact.

    I don’t want to add more spark to the debate because there isn’t much else to say. Both of them are simply inconclusive and wouldn’t have worked in the long haul. They both had their issues, but I do tend to lean towards Riley being at fault if I’m being completely honest. To be fair, however, Buffy never once told him that she loved him, so I’m shocked he stayed as long as he did. Anyway, I love how Buffy just went along with Spike, and was so casual to having him hovering over her bed. She spoke like it’s happened before ;). I totally love the look on Spike’s face when Buffy traipses off. He tilts his head to the side slightly, looking like a confused puppy. Spike feels like Buffy is a puzzle that he just can’t solve. His vampiric soulless senses don’t help him understand how what he did was technically selfish. Still, it was at the perfect time.

    As for Riley, I have always found him to be an interesting character who would have worked marvelously on any other show. Unfortunately for him, all the other popular Buffy characters are just better. You have to have a stark wit and a nice snarky humor, an enticing personality and a great backstory for a Btvs character to work. I always felt like the others characters were just so good that they outshined Riley completely. Riley was even starting to procure a sense of humor when he left the show. Anyway, I can’t say I’m upset about him being gone, on the other hand, he was always a great addition to the show and will be remembered. I agree with your score. 🙂


  70. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on July 21, 2014.]

    I don’t think they’re identical, for the simple reason that Buffy was going through an awful time and needed something to remove her from that whereas Parker was just being a dirtbag. But they are comparable.

    For instance, you say Spike gave his consent. What did Spike consent to with Buffy that Buffy didn’t consent to with Parker?

    But yeah, Buffy did not use Riley in any way. It was just a relationship that fell apart for mutually agreed upon reasons, more or less. Give or take a Buffy running after a helicopter.


  71. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on September 29, 2014.]

    DEAR MIKE: When you rewrite this review, please write it to the tune of the title song from the musical Into The Woods. “Into the woods, it’s time to go and burn the vamp that blew my beau…”

    Also, dock the grade five or ten points.


  72. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on September 29, 2014.]

    Heh. At least some of that could very well happen. However, this review will not be rewritten (nor will any from Season 5 on, and only a few in Season 4 at that). After Season 3 most reviews will only be refined and tweaked. Score changes are certainly possible though.


  73. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on November 26, 2014.]

    First off I agree both parties are at fault for what happens. Riley knows Buffy went to Angel all the time for comfort and just to be with him and of course he would feel upset that his girlfriend basically forgets about him. Buffy blaming Riley for not feeling the closeness of the relationship was pretty silly. Although, as Xander showed it is easier to see things from the outside then when you are in it. And of course by the time Buffy realises her mistake she isn’t fast enough to catch Riley. Oh, Joss, you little scamp.

    On a different note, what happened to the extra vampire at the end. The overhead shot showed eight vamps, yet Buffy staked seven.


  74. [Note: Darnell Major posted this comment on May 26, 2015.]

    f Buffy was really neglecting Riley, the writers sure didn’t do a good job of making that a vivid picture because all I saw was a girl tending to her ill mother and showing her boyfriend and friends less attention in the process. I think it had nothing to do with Buffy wanting men that are dark & brooding like Angel. Riley just happened to be in Buffy’s life at a time where she was dealing with a major crisis which was her sick mother and romance had to be put on hold.


  75. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on May 26, 2015.]

    Yah but even before the illness showed up Buffy was showing signs that she wasn’t as committed to the relationship as Riley was.


  76. [Note: Foxman posted this comment on June 28, 2015.]

    I am, admittedly, not a Riley fan. That said, I do find myself feeling sorry for him, particularly in the scene in the training room. He’s not being reasonable, but I also think that he knows this. What is sad, and why I think it’s really evident that their relationship is doomed, is that it ultimately has little to do with individual actions or trespasses against one another, but more to do with incompatibility on a deep level. There are so many moments that are evident to the viewer that both of these characters care about one another – not the least of which is the lovemaking scene earlier in this episode. But Buffy isn’t capable of showing care in the way that Riley needs – namely, his need to feel needed by her. Similarly, Riley has major hangups with Buffy’s strength and resilience.

    To me, the really unfair piece comes when considering the context of her withdrawing from Riley – yeah, she is really flippant about spending time with him, and does treat him as a convenience. But she’s also going through something huge – I can definitely say that if I were dealing with the grief and fear of a loved one, specifically my solely present parent, having a potentially terminal health issue, I would be pretty withdrawn. And I would hope that my partner would understand why that was – but then I’d also acknowledge that this would be hard on them, as well. Because that’s the way that trauma is. But again, Riley is remarkably self-aware in that he knows he’s not being reasonable – the line that made that evident to me is when Buffy says she can’t believe he’s saying that this is her fault, and he says, “I’m not…But I just don’t feel it.” It’s not something that Buffy did to him, it’s that penetrating sense that she doesn’t need him, that she is too self-contained to really be in love with someone again, and a certain disinterest or unwillingness or inability to go there.

    That’s ultimately what this schism comes down to -whereas Buffy is (at least somewhat) comfortable with her solitude, Riley really isn’t in the context of his relationship. I can’t really fault him for determining that this wasn’t what he wanted and moving forward from it.


  77. [Note: blueraptor posted this comment on June 29, 2015.]

    so it was doomed since buffy said “you’re a little peculiar” to Riley, at the end of “The Initiative”…


  78. [Note: Big Time James posted this comment on December 10, 2015.]

    Hate this episode. D or F. This episode was a good example of the show’s decline in quality in general.

    As I wrote elsewhere about this episode: I would call it one of the worst episodes of the entire series. It runs exactly like an episode of “One Tree Hill.” From the line level to the structural level, it is banal television. Endless overly dramatic dialogue, endless cliches, all building to a chase-after-lover-about-to-fly-out-of-town cliche I have literally seen 1000 times.

    Here’s my “favorite” part of the entire ham-handed episode. When Riley enters the Magic Shop to speak with Buffy, Xander and Anya leave, and Xander tells Anya he has “some things to do,” and to go home without him. And Anya leaves with no questions. Now come on. That would never happen. Ever. Anywhere. There is no person or demon on the planet that would not ask, “Like what, exactly?” It’s just bad writing.

    So what is Xander’s plan here, at this moment? Apparently to wait outside until Buffy comes out, so that he can then talk to her. But about what? He has little to no idea what she and Riley are talking about, or what, exactly, he will be needed for. It makes NO SENSE AT ALL. But you see, he is not waiting to have this conversation with Buffy because that is what his character (or anyone) would do. He is doing it SOLELY because the writer wants him there. He doesn’t know why he’s there or what he’s needed for. Only that God (the writer) needs him there. It’s just bad writing.

    Why would Xander think that Buffy would be available for a talk anyway? Anyone would assume that Riley and Buffy will be leaving together. Why would he assume otherwise? How could he know she would bolt, alone, after just a few minutes with Riley? It’s just bad writing.

    So he waits in the back alley, because he somehow knows that she will leave that way, and watches her kill the vampires from the shadows (as he himself says). So how could he be there and not see about 8 vampires waiting around back there, also waiting for Buffy, also somehow knowing she would leave through the back door? And they did not see him? It’s just bad writing.

    Xander still doesn’t know what’s up, so first Buffy has to fill him in on what’s going on with Riley. Then he has his big melodramatic conversation/lecture with Buffy, to set up the chase after Riley and Xander’s last scene with Anya, which is why he was really there, but could not have known. Only the writer could. It’s just bad writing.

    And on the line level? That and every overwrought dialogue-driven scene, mostly shot and edited exactly the way soap operas are, is simply embarrassing to watch and listen to. It is not Shakespeare, it is not Dostoyevsky, it is not Jane Austin. It is not intelligent. It is banal. “Run!” I laugh just thinking about it.

    On the soap opera thing– watch Buffy and Riley’s scene, and listen to the music. When there is a pause, and Riley then announces that he is thinking about leaving, listen to the music cue. It is really embarrassing, and kind of hilarious in a bad-TV way. It sounds just like a soap opera from 40-50 years ago, with the cheesy sudden note change in the strings when one character says something dramatic.

    Christophe Beck, the great composer whose work is among the best I have ever heard on genre TV, was of course gone after S4.


  79. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on December 10, 2015.]

    If this is one of the first examples of a characters convenient placement within the narrative you noticed in BtVS then you’re not very perceptive, no offense intended. This series is riddled with them along with incoherent plots and mythology.

    But this is intentional. The purpose of the series is not to create a coherent narrative. Its goal is to challenge the viewer to appreciate the trials and tribulations these characters face from both outside and inward forces. It’s also preoccupied with its beautifully realized themes through text and subtext as opposed to its mostly mundane camera work/aesthetics and hit or miss ost. I agree, the ost in the first four seasons was generally better. But it’s not something I really focus on when critiquing it.

    Imo, the intentions of a series are the most important aspect when deciding if it’s a success. BtVS realizes its goals superbly and that’s what makes it an incredible show.


  80. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on December 11, 2015.]

    Still even if the intention wasn’t to create a coherent narrative I doubt it was intentional to make an incoherent plot and mythology. I mean who goes into something with the intention of it not making any sense unless it’s a comedy or something (sure people mess with Doctor Who continuity all the time but at least that has the excuse of being decades old and being run by multiple people with different agendas). I can but that they just didn’t care about the mythology but I doubt they went into the show with the idea to make it nonsensical for the sake of the characters and other things.


  81. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on December 11, 2015.]

    I disagree. Perhaps Joss and co. had hoped and not necessarily intended to have something more coherent. If you’re a true writer you want your work to be as fundamentally sound as possible. But it became apparent that Joss was not interested in such a thing by the conclusion of season 1.

    Even season 1 from the beginning had little thought put into its mythology. Vampires, witches, giant insects, animal possession, cyber space demons, live puppets, psychokinesis, vam…pires with witch powers and… psychokinesis… yeah. It’s not difficult to conclude that this mess is highly problematic thus why this assumption is justified.

    No matter what nonsensical supernatural phenomenon the writers had to conjure in order to parallel or symbolize a characters particular arc it was implemented.


  82. [Note: Big Time James posted this comment on December 14, 2015.]

    PathBeyond:”If this is one of the first examples of a characters convenient placement within the narrative you noticed in BtVS then you’re not very perceptive, no offense intended. This series is riddled with them along with incoherent plots and mythology.”

    I don’t care about normal story plot holes or incoherent mythology. But please point out the “convenient placement” of characters as ham-handed and idiotic as this one. This wasn’t just “convenient,” it wasn’t just a character with little excuse for being somewhere for story convenience, it was a character with NO excuse for it whatsoever. That’s what makes it bad writing.

    It wouldn’t have taken much to come up with a better reason. Maybe Xander says he needs to go back and get his toolbox, which he left out back. Or he remembered the garbage needed to be moved for collection the next day, so he was helping out there. Or he left a box of junk out back. ANYTHING.

    Then he sees a group of vampires coming, and hides. Would’ve literally taken just a few seconds of screen time to establish.

    What they did instead was the laziest writing possible.


  83. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on December 14, 2015.]

    I would consider lazy writing just killing off or attempting a half-assed single episode plot reason for Riley to leave the series as most media do. Instead they utilize almost half a season of material to develop the rift and characters before its climax. This not only takes tremendous thought and effort, but also extensive collaboration between writers.

    So frankly, calling this “lazy writing” is as insulting to excellent work and earned praise as it gets. Your criticisms are far lazier than any writing this medium has to offer since you take such superficial and highly isolated material – a few minutes of screen time vs hours of footage and hundreds of pages of dialog – as somehow the most important variable.


  84. [Note: Big Time James posted this comment on December 14, 2015.]

    Lazy criticism = fetishizing a series to the degree that you believe it is beyond criticism in every episode and every scene. Actually, it’s so lazy that it’s not criticism at all.

    Buzzfeed article ranked this episode #116 in the series. You should go leave a comment teaching him a thing or two: http://www.buzzfeed.com/louispeitzman/ranking-every-episode-of-buffy-the-vampire-slayer#.egnvwgEg2

    Great article here about the episode lays the blame at the feet of Marti Noxon, who was Buffy’s most divisive writer at the time (still is?): http://cultural-learnings.com/2010/08/02/cultural-catchup-project-into-the-woods-caught-in-the-weeds-buffy-the-vampire-slayer/

    That article mostly dislikes the orchestrated bathos of the end of the episode, feels that it undermines all that was being set up in previous episodes.


  85. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on December 14, 2015.]

    Hey, here’s a forum thread about said Buzzfeed article! We didn’t like it much, but “Into the Woods” never came up. It also provides my entry into the Critically Touched universe. They never expected what was about to hit them.

    I’m not big on Marti Noxon bashing. She was always my favourite of the Buffy writers.

    Lazy criticism = fetishizing a series to the degree that you believe it is beyond criticism in every episode and every scene. Actually, it’s so lazy that it’s not criticism at all.

    Literally no one here does that. We have plenty of criticisms everywhere about many episodes. This just happens to be an episode a lot of us like.

    You should go leave a comment teaching him a thing or two

    You seem to be under the impression that leaving a comment on a Buffy forum about how bad an episode that got a high grade on wouldn’t be responded to by the regulars of this site. It’s ironic because you are coming here leaving a comment trying to teach us a thing or two.


  86. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on December 14, 2015.]

    I apologize to the regulars if this seems overly hostile towards James in advance, but BTJ seems to be arguing for no reason other than arguments sake at this point.

    I don’t care about normal story plot holes or incoherent mythology. But please point out the “convenient placement” of characters as ham-handed and idiotic as this one.

    First of all, I attempted to keep this civilized with my first response. Your original rebuttal comes across argumentative. But if you need an example of “convenient” then how about the fact that the authorities nixed their pursuit of Buffy in season 3 after being heavily suspected in season 2? If you need an example of convenient “placement” then look in in every other episode. Characters “show up” seemingly impossibly whether it be due to the greatest of coincidences or, more often, simply arriving within the vicinity of another character much too quickly considering his/her head start. If you need a specific “episode,” then watch how quickly Buffy arrives just after Giles in the climax of “Passion.” It happens probably a dozen times a season.

    This wasn’t just “convenient,” it wasn’t just a character with little excuse for being somewhere for story convenience, it was a character with NO excuse for it whatsoever. That’s what makes it bad writing.

    “Convenient” implies lack of believability. You either believe or do not believe it, there is no middle ground or “kind of” believe it. So whether or not there is a “reason” for him to be there, neither is believable and that’s what matters. If this is worthy of criticism, then the entire medium is highly flawed. You can’t pick and choose when you will or will not “conveniently” use such criteria to back up your opinions if it’s widespread throughout.

    Lazy criticism = fetishizing a series to the degree that you believe it is beyond criticism in every episode and every scene. Actually, it’s so lazy that it’s not criticism at all.

    You realize your presumption comes without you doing your proper homework, correct? I criticize BtVS as much as I praise it and a simple trip over to our forums would prove this. Not only did you make this presumption about me without proper knowledge, but you grouped everyone that regularly participates in our discussions in there as well. I can’t stress enough how false this is and how wrong you are. Considering the mountain of evidence, you should be embarrassed having attempted to use this argument.

    I’m inclined to believe you are either trolling or are not particularly talented in the craft of debate.


  87. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on December 14, 2015.]

    Nitpicking but technically nothing in that last quote specifically states that we here at CT do that, only that if we did it would constitute lazy criticism.


  88. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on December 14, 2015.]

    It was heavily implied. There’s many ways he could have defined lazy criticism, he chose to do so in a way that would attack those defending the episode.


  89. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on December 14, 2015.]

    James, please stop stating that people who enjoy the later seasons of Buffy are “fetishizing” the series. It’s a degrading and disgusting comment, and it doesn’t add the least bit of credibility to your criticisms.


  90. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on December 14, 2015.]

    I’m going to assume that comment was ironic, since the episode it refers to was also quite plainly ironic.

    Then again, I’ve often assumed wrong.


  91. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on December 14, 2015.]

    I’m a fan. I’m a sports fan, I’m a music fan and I’m a Star Trek fan. All
    of them. But here’s what I don’t do. Tell me if any of this sounds familiar: “Let’s
    list our ten favorite episodes. Let’s list our least favorite episodes. Let’s list
    our favourite galaxies. Let’s make a chart to see how often our favorite galaxies appear
    in our favorite episodes. What Romulan would you most like to see coupled with
    a Cardassian and why? Let’s spend a weekend talking about Romulans falling in love with
    Cardassians and then let’s do it again.” That’s not being a fan. That’s having a
    fetish. And I don’t have a problem with that, except you can’t bring your hobbies in to work, okay?

    Got it.

    Except on Star Trek holidays. [exits]

    There’s no such thing as a Star Trek holiday.

    Well, work hard around here. We’ll make one.

    Josh walks off, and Janice smiles.

    Maybe it’s just me but I’m just not feeling the irony here. And you don’t mess with Trekkies.


  92. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on December 14, 2015.]

    The context is entirely different. Josh distinguishes between “being a fan” and ‘having a fetish” because he knows there’s logistical bearing to the former. (It’s a double-subversion on Sorkin’s part, as he doesn’t care for analysis of his shows that is only tangential to the series itself.)

    Being a fan in this context means having a keen understanding of the show you like and knowing what does and doesn’t make it work for you, both emotionally and intellectually. Having a fetish is letting your love for the show baselessly interfere with your sense of reasoning.

    Given how many comments you’ve written in recent weeks criticizing little plot details in Buffy, you may well share many of BTJ’s opinions. But that doesn’t mean he was at all right in using that term.


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