He's no Angel, but I bet you'll miss him. It might have been more interesting for Riley to become darker over a longer period - possibly even have him become a vampire - but this is still a pretty strong exit for a character who actually perked up a little bit towards the end. Will he return? Who knows. Marc Blucas is certainly keen to reprise the role if required.
Marti Noxon, in her directorial debut, does a fine job of realising a typically (for her) angst-ridden script onscreen. Nobody tugs those heart strings harder.
Special mention for Spike too. Convincingly turning him into a fully-fledged love interest is going to be a tough job, but James Marsters and the writers seem to be pulling it off so far without making it seem too implausible.
Is Spike doing good or bad? It's always a tricky one - despite his chip, his poetic past and his new found crush on Buffy, there's still a heart of pure naughty there. So, was taking Buffy into a brothel-come-heroin den to show her Riley getting a suck job purely for information? Or was it to make Spike look like a viable option?
Riley has been adrift since the breakup of the Initiative - he always was going to come unstuck. But it's Buffy's life that's really unravelling - her boyfriend's gone, she has a stalker, her sister isn't and her mum is really ill. She's getting isolated again, and that unfocused anger isn't helping. Lets hope it isn't going to be a rerun of season 4, with the Scoobies fragmenting.
And bless Xander - let's not forget that he used to love Buffy, so his pep talk was pretty selfless.
Whoops. Riley really, really screws up. What he does to Buffy is almost unspeakably finky. It's all very well to want to go and get a dark side, but Riley confuses dark with dank. His addiction to being sucked by vampires is disgusting and frankly weird. There's no sexual enigma here - it's just grubby.
The moment when Buffy discovers Riley cheating on her in such a low way is awful - not only is Riley interested in other women, he's interested in nasty women in nasty ways.
I think I only just got the point of this episode watching it again for this review. Up until now I thought it would have been much more fun if Riley had let himself become a vampire to try and win Buffy's love. Riley doesn't do this, and that's actually the point. The poor dear has so little idea of what a bad boy is, or what it was that Buffy found attractive about Angel that he ends up missing the point spectacularly.
And then, when, for once in her life Buffy blows her stack for a good reason, he has the gall to get cross at her! Poor Spike may have no idea of morality, but Riley's self-righteous streak shows up at completely the wrong time.
Riley finally makes his exit in a sparkling episode which puts Buffy back on form after two dull hospital episodes.
The weight of story-arc to get through means not much supernatural happens, but that doesn’t matter because it’s the dynamic dialogue and blistering emotional storms that make this episode great.
Scriptwriter Marti Noxon’s observation of people in highly-charged situations is spot-on. The way Spike and Riley go from each others’ throats to a weary camaraderie in the "staking" scene was utterly convincing. And anyone who’s ever had a "this could be the end" row with their other half will have found the intense Riley-Buffy argument, unfair shock ultimatum and all, painfully familiar.
So why spoil it with Xander’s daytime soap opera "do you want to lose him" speech? The slushy sentiment of the last ten minutes almost ruined a fine episode. As I watched Riley in the helicopter, there was fear in my heart that at any moment he’d turn his head and a saccharine reunion with Buffy would result. Thankfully, he went. Hurrah!