When it comes to characters who catch more than their share of backlash in the Buffyverse, Riley Finn immediately comes to mind.
Truth be told, most of it (if any) isn't remotely justified.
Portrayed by the gorgeous and talented Marc Blucas, Finn was introduced during the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He was the first serious love interest for the Slayer since her former paramour Angel departed Sunnydale for Los Angeles for his spinoff his series.
It’s certainly understandable that many people are diehard fans of Buffy, Angel, and their complicated love affair. I count myself among the ranks. While Buffy and Angel may be the other's one true pairing, that isn’t to say that their other relationships didn’t warrant merit.
For all the complaints Riley received for being to bland, boring, or vanilla, the truth is that he was a complex character who was very much worth exploring. Riley was intentionally positioned to be the Anti-Angel. He was the Steve Rogers/Clark Kent to Angel’s Bruce Wayne. A fact he proved when he defended Buffy’s honor and decked Parker Abrams for his misogynistic comments about the Slayer.
Riley represented a demographic that is found too often in college. The conservative Boy Scout, the good guy, those who grew up in church, with good ole fashioned values. The type that believes in God and country and sees the world as black and white. It was fitting that Riley’s story began while he was at Sunnydale University as an undercover soldier. Often, college and the military are two places where one’s worldviews are fundamentally challenged. In those places, one regularly discovers the world isn’t simply black and white but a subtle and sometimes vast chiaroscuro. Perhaps what was most impressive about Riley is that he didn’t stick to his beliefs when he realized they were wrong or needed recalibrating. He was a man that tried to do the right thing.
That doesn’t mean he never made mistakes. However, more than many of the other characters, he made a good faith effort to own them and make things right. Riley, perhaps more than anyone else, was key in snapping Buffy out of her post resurrection despair in season six. For that alone he deserves sainthood.
Here’s hoping to see more of him in the canonical Buffy comic book series. Because the world can always use a few more good guys.