Riley is a loyal and devoted soldier who takes his role in the Initiative seriously and who follows its rules without question, until he meets Buffy and starts becoming more like her – much to the distress of his commanding officer. Even though he joins the Scooby Gang, he still acts the role of a soldier, which has been his career up until now – he’s climbed up the ranks and achieved a high position, enough that they often put him in charge of squadrons when taking down vampires, monsters, and other creatures. Riley has no real interest in getting to know more about these monsters, just in defeating them – and he is curious about the Slayer insomuch as he wants to know her strengths and weaknesses, rather than her entire history or how she feels about it. His method is to “bag and tag,” rather than to differentiate between the good monsters and the bad – but he is a nice guy who defies direct orders when he meets Oz and sees that he has control over his werewolf tendencies. Riley still abides by the laws of his institution, allowing them to try him before a court martial once he’s sure he can come out unscathed. When he realizes he has been betrayed, manipulated, and even used as a lab rat (being pumped full of enhancing drugs), Riley feels so upset about it, he refuses to talk to Buffy or anyone else, running off to mourn the loss of his boss in private. He can be jealous and a little possessive, such as when he attacks Angel out of fear that Buffy and he have reconnected, and later, becomes a vampire addict out of a desire to understand “how Buffy felt” when Dracula bit her, and how she could fall under his thrall. Riley doesn’t really look past things that much, he prefers to deal with them hands-on. But he does know that leaving the Initiative is going to make it hard for him ever to return – and does it anyway.

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Riley is suspicious and distrustful, but also loyal to his family, friends, and the Initiative. He doesn’t question it until Buffy raises serious questions about its intentions, and then he becomes more skeptical and questioning of what it’s up to. He doesn’t want to go back to them and have them fix his heart, since he’s afraid they might do something else to him or even kill him. His fears that Buffy might get hurt or overpowered cause him to want to fight for her, and go out on patrol with her – where he sticks to tried and true tactics, and is frustrated that the Scooby Gang can’t be more “stealth.” He has no evidence to believe Angel has lost his soul, or that Buffy slept with him in LA, but still operates off that wrongful assumption and attacks Angel. Riley trusts his own logic, and himself maybe too much at times, taking risks he shouldn’t in an effort to prove himself.