Terminator Wiki
Terminator Wiki
This page is about the Sarah Connor Chronicles character. For the Dark Fate character, see Dawson (Dark Fate).
Spoiler warning: This article contains plot details for Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Season 2.

Riley Dawson is John Connor's girlfriend and a teenager in the Resistance. She is recruited by Jesse Flores in 2027 to time travel back to 2007 to eliminate the Terminator Cameron's influence over John Connor. Riley believes her mission is to seduce John into falling in love with her, thus keeping him connected to humanity. However, Jesse's plan is to actually get Cameron to kill Riley, which Jesse believes will decisively sever John's connection with Cameron.


Riley appears to be something of a rebel; prone to skipping school, "Mr. Ferguson is Ill Today" resisting authority, "Automatic for the People" and having a talent for manipulation. "Automatic for the People"


Post-Judgment Day[]


Riley and Jesse meet in the future.

Riley was born sometime around the Judgment Day. She seemed to have been a rat catcher in the future, as with many of the juveniles in the shelters before being recruited by Jesse to separate John from Cameron. Jesse's recruitment technique appears to have been seduction based. They make use of time displacement equipment and go into the past. "Earthlings Welcome Here"

Present day[]


Jesse and Riley arrive in the present.

After the time travel, Riley and Jesse are both seen naked in a rain-soaked alley. When they arrive at a hotel room, Riley is amazed at the early 21st century fabrics. She cleaned herself of the dirt on her and stayed with Jesse for a while before she was set up in a foster home under Aaron's custody, and placed at an L.A. school John and Cameron were attending. "Earthlings Welcome Here"

John Riley

John meets Riley.

Later, she approached John for the first time outside the school and asked him why he bailed on English. She called him a weirdo, but joined him on the grass outside. She introduced herself and gave him some attitude for not knowing who she is. Warily, he started to speak, but she interrupted him, baiting him into further conversation. When the bell rang and he asked if she has somewhere to be, obviously having no intention of returning to class, she turned the question back on him, then asked if he has $20 to help her still gnawing hunger, impressing him with her brazenness.

At a food cart she explained she got expelled from a Catholic school for a little star tattoo on her wrist. She asked about his obvious injuries and he replied "Car accident." with the cover story that he was teaching his "sister" how to drive. John decided to retake the initiative from her after relating how his mom found a new house today and asked if she wanted to come over and see it.

As John and Riley surveyed the new house, she thought it looked nice but noticed how he kept looking around and at her oddly. She joked "never brought a girl home before?" He said he hasn't. Once the couple reached his room, they discovered it still decked out for a little kid, with toys.

As they walked around the house, Riley scoffed at the bare fridge, but was enthused to find the ice cream that John knew would be the first thing stocked and hidden in a drawer. Once Sarah arrived home, after John introduces her, Sarah pulls him aside and they had a heated confrontation over her presence. Cameron closed in on and inspected Riley making her a bit nervous.

Sarah was adamant that this is no time for John to be pursuing girls, much less bringing them to the safe house, but John wondered vehemently when exactly will be the right time for him to live his own life. Riley offered to leave, but John said everything was fine and took Riley's hand to lead her upstairs, leaving Sarah flummoxed. Later, following the two upstairs, an insecure Sarah approached and touched John's doorknob, stopping to listen, but didn't knock or interrupt.

Inside the room, John and Riley lay head to toe and she asked if he ever thought about the future and freedom from the tyranny of parents. He admitted he thinks about the future quite a bit but he doesn't know about freedom. She confessed her parents are freaks, to which he replied "Yours too?" They gazed at the stars that the former inhabitant of the room put on the ceiling.

The following morning in John's room, Riley was sitting at the end of his bed when he awoke. John asked her if she slept on the floor or something and she replied that she's an early riser.[1] She presented John a LEGO robot to protect him while he sleeps, and he didn't take it well at first, but she convinced him to accept it, unaware of the irony of the situation.[2] She prepared to leave, saying she was going to try to make it to English, but John decided he's going to ditch. She drew her phone from home and asked if she can call him. He programmed in his number and instructed her, even though it's weird, that whenever she calls him the first words out of her mouth need to be the date. Although she wonders why, she accepted his conditions.[3] still unaware of the reason for them, and takes off for school. Later as a test, she made a call to John and performed the requested challenge using the wrong date in the process. "Automatic for the People"

Riley inadvertently became responsible for the theft of many of the Connor's possession's, such as IDs, credits cards, diamonds, and money, when she forgets to reset the house's perimeter alarm after she sneaks out of John's room. "Brothers of Nablus" Later, John takes Riley get away trip to Mexico. During this trip, they were arrested after Riley tried trying to destroy a camera with incriminating photos of John that could've gone to the authorities. As a result, she was nearly killed by Cromartie in the gun battle that surrounded their escape. John sends her back to America, where he promised to tell her everything. "Mr. Ferguson is Ill Today"

SCC 208 MrFergusonIsIllToday1

After their Mexican ordeal, John visited Riley at her foster home, intending to explain what had happened. As they entered in to conversation, John became uneasy about Riley's mental state expressed through the jarring perspective used by Riley. When the situation came to explaining things, he told her he couldn't, she responsed by telling him he didn't need to. Some time after John left, she met her handler, Jesse, at a woman's fashion store. She told Jesse she didn't think she could keep John away from Cameron, but Jesse persuaded her to continue. After returning home, Riley snapped during an argument between her foster siblings, raving about the coming apocalypse and bleached skulls. In the end she struck her foster mother resulting in her being kick out onto the streets. "Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point"

Riley called John at a party and pushed his buttons to come get her. When John arrived, she revealed that she wanted John to stay there with her. While John was playing a video game, she flirted with the host and took his lighter. Later, the host confronted her about the theft, causing John to physically attack him. After Riley got John to stop, they left. They drove to an L.A. overlook, a makeout point, and (at least) kissed passionately after talking about what had happened. She kept John out the rest of the night until dawn. "Self Made Man"


John cradles a bleeding Riley.

As their relationship progressed, Riley helped John repaint his room, at which time John noticed a bruise on her, but she denied its significance. She insisted that contrary to John's disbelief, her foster father did not give it to her. In reality, the bruise in fact came from Jesse after she came against her orders to her apartment and pleaded with her to find a place they could move in together. In response, Jesse struck Riley and ordered her back to work escorting John. Cameron similarly noticed a star tattoo on Riley and asked about it. John interrupted and Cameron demanded they talk. While they were away talking, Riley tried to commit suicide in the bathroom. John called an ambulance, which took her to the hospital. After she was treated, the staff decided to keep her there because John told them what he believed to be her reason for attempting suicide. Jesse had already heard what happened from Derek and arrived shortly after at the hospital. She took Riley to her apartment and agreed to let her stay for one hour. "Earthlings Welcome Here"

Dead Riley

Riley's death

While at the Connor residence, Riley learned that Jesse had been secretly making inquiries about her and was pretending to be a Guidance Counselor at the school. While there, a Department of Youth and Family Services agent came to visit the home to question Sarah and determine the safety of the home for children. During this interview, Riley was taken into the garage by Cameron who is undecided about killing her. Adding the facts together about her true purpose in Jesse's mission — that Cameron was meant to kill Riley in order for John to lose his trust in Cameron, Riley flees the Connor residence. Confronting Jesse with this knowledge, the two start fighting. Riley was shot and killed during the fight. "Ourselves Alone" Jesse later dumped her body in a nearby river. The body is later found by the LA police and the Connors begin to suspect Cameron, thus spawning the germination of Jesse's goal. To cover their tracks relating to Riley's death, John and Cameron fool her foster father into thinking that she is still alive. "Today Is The Day, Part 1" Later, in examining Riley's corpse, John discovers that it could not have been Cameron that kill her, because she had too many cuts and bruises. The inference John surmised was that if she was fighting Cameron she would not have lasted long enough to have sustained these injuries. "Today Is The Day, Part 2"


With John Connor[]

SCC 207 BrothersofNablus4

Riley and John

"Right. And your name is?"
- John Connor.

John has his first encounter with Riley where she ingratiates herself as a cheery optimist. "Automatic for the People" Sensing John's sullenness, she immediately gets him to take her out for lunch in a bid to cheer him up and to learn more about him. Though John is reluctant to accept her company at first, he soon finds himself drawn in by her carefree disposition and invites her to his new house. The more time they spend together, the more John starts to realize that she may be the only source of peace in his otherwise chaotic life. This also couples with his desire to distance himself from Cameron, for whom he harbors romantic feelings. When Sarah expresses her disdain towards Riley's presence, John defies his mother and takes Riley to his room where they lie on opposite sides of the bed and gaze up at the glowing stars on the ceiling.

Having stayed the night, Riley builds John a robot out of LEGO blocks and presents it to him as a gift, which he accepts in full knowledge of the inherent irony. He then gives her his number and instructs her to state the current date whenever she rings so that he knows it is her and not a Terminator. She later calls him, using the code and telling him that she is practising before hanging up, making John smile properly for the first time since Cameron's attempt to kill him. Riley calls John out upon a whim, stating that she is bored, and is annoyed when John abandons her by his mother's orders.

Riley's visits to the Connor residence become more frequent as time passes and John even trusts her enough to give her the code for their security system. They continue to maintain a close and carefree friendship, despite John's moody disposition. In "Brothers of Nablus", Riley stands up to Cromartie, not knowing what he is, and tricks him into leaving the house. John is very on edge after that near miss but she earns a smile when she becomes elated by her own cunning bravery and gives him a playful kiss on the cheek when he calls her a "badass".

Their relationship continues to grow as they both develop romantic feelings for each other. In "Mr. Ferguson is Ill Today" John buys Riley a cycle helmet to keep her safe for when she rides her bike, and they playfully hold hands as they say goodbye for the night. John is determined to hold onto her and spontaneously takes her on a trip to Mexico for the "Day of the Dead" celebrations, booking a honeymoon suite. It is implied that John had certain intentions for their stay, but Riley expresses her desire to take their relationship one step at a time and wants to know more about him personally. After the subsequent chaos with Cromartie, John insists that she go home, but Riley refuses to leave him at first, until being convinced further.

John visits Riley at her foster home, finding her to be somewhat unstable since the events in Mexico. He explains to her that he cannot explain, but she doesn't want to know, and asks him to just stay with her, but John decides to leave for unknown reasons. In "Self Made Man" John receives a call from an upset Riley, who asks him to come and collect her from a party. Upon arriving, however, she convinces him to stay, resulting in a fight with the party host when he tries to frisk Riley in front of John. He then drives her to an overlook of the city where he tells her about his foster parents and Charley Dixon, commenting that he can't be around people. Riley responds by kissing him, which he reciprocates after a moment of hesitation.

In the mid-season finale "Earthlings Welcome Here", Riley comes over to help John strip the wallpaper from his room and brings him a smoothie. John senses that she is upset about something and Riley simply tells him she had an argument with her foster parents. He later finds a bruise on her head and suspects her foster father of hitting her, but Riley denies this and tells him to drop the subject before storming out. He is later horrified when he discovers Riley bleeding to death on the bathroom floor and cradles her, looking desperately to Cameron for help.

John was able to save Riley by calling the paramedics and getting her to the local hospital, a move that was frowned upon by Derek. Riley later disappeared from the hospital and didn't resurface until "Ourselves Alone" wherein she visited John at home and spied Cameron repairing her faulty arm. After a series of events that almost led to her death by Cameron's hands, Riley realised that Jesse had betrayed her. John tried to coax Riley into telling him the truth about who she really is, but following her orders from Jesse, Riley refused to answer his questions. She later confronted Jesse and a brawl ensued, the result of which saw Riley assassinated by Jesse. It is possible that as of "Born to Run", an alternate Riley is alive in the future, seeing as how John never became the leader of the Resistance and her entire "mission" with Jesse is no longer needed.

With Jesse Flores[]


Jesse and Riley

"How could you do this to me?! I trusted you! I loved you!"
- Riley Dawson.

After being plucked out of "hell" and brought to "paradise" by Jesse, Riley developed a strong attachment to the former soldier, even to the point of loving her like a mother. While Jesse was kind and caring in the beginning, she eventually grew cold and callous, treating Riley with disrespect and rejecting her friendship. Riley continued to seek Jesse's approval, however, and staged a suicide attempt in order to impress her. When she discovered Jesse was setting her up to be murdered all along, Riley was heart-broken and tried to kill Jesse in a fit of rage, screaming that she trusted her and loved her. Jesse, however, remained uncaring and killed her with little regret.


202 2 Riley in Johns bed

Riley's smile

  • Riley often makes remarks or jokes that John has trouble understanding, such as when she playfully commented on his grumpy disposition, saying he was "full of carrots and apples". Jesse later uses the phrase "She'll be apples" in "Alpine Fields", suggesting that Riley's odd remarks may actually be colloquialisms of the future or phrases she picked up from Jesse.
  • The revelation that Riley is manipulating John to draw him away from Cameron tests the validity of her feelings for him, though she does show remorse and regret for her deceit and Jesse suggests that she does genuinely care for him.
  • John's feelings for Riley are unclear so far, as he is seen to enjoy her company, yet at the same time he shows exasperation when she calls him in "Self Made Man" and is visibly tired of her when he finds her at the party.

Behind the Scenes[]

  • Riley was originally scripted to first appear in "Brothers of Nablus", but due to pressure from the FOX executives, she was introduced in "Automatic for the People" instead, thereby shifting the direction of the entire season.[citation needed]
  • Riley was met with heavy criticism from fans who believed her introduction to the show was both forced and unwelcome.
    • Many blame Riley for the deteriorating relationship between John, his mother, and Cameron (especially among fans of Cameron, who generally favoured a close and possibly romantic relationship between John and Cameron, and accordingly was disgusted at the character who stepped in to ruin this relationship).
    • They also attribute a lot of John's "emo-ness" to Riley's presence, further adding venom to their hate of the character.
    • A vast majority of the fanbase wanted to see Riley eliminated from the show as early as "The Mousetrap" and they got their wish in "Ourselves Alone", wherein she was murdered by Jesse.
    • Ironically, many of the fans who despised her throughout the show suddenly felt a measure of respect and even sympathy for her character upon her death, many of which claimed Riley had "redeemed" herself in their eyes.



John: I guess this is it.
Riley: Sweet! What's a matter? Never brought a girl home before?
John: No.
Riley: Well, I wonder where your room is?
John: I don't know.
Riley: Well, let's go look for it.
(they survey a child's room, dumbfounded)
John: She can't be serious.

(outside a car door closes)
Riley: What's wrong?
John: It's my mom.
Riley: Is that a problem?
Sarah Connor: John? Who are you?
John: This is Riley. From school.
Riley: Hi, mom.
(Cameron closes in on Riley)
Sarah Connor: Let's talk, you and I. Riley from school. You never mentioned her before.
John: Well, that's because I just met her today.
Sarah Connor: Really?
John: Mm-hmm.
Sarah Connor: Now is not the time for this.
John: Now is not the time. Well, when is the time? For me, I mean, to live my life.
Riley: Hey, if-- if you guys are gonna keep fighting about me, I can leave.
John: No. Everything's fine.
Riley: Morning.
John: Hey. Did you sleep on the floor?
Riley: Early riser.
John: What's that?
Riley: What's it look like?
John: Looks like a robot.
Riley: It's a robot, big scary man, whatever. He's for you. To protect you while you sleep.
John: What, do I look like I need protection?
Riley: If you don't want it then...
John: No, no. Uh... it's very cool. Thank you.
Riley: You're very welcome.

Riley: (to Jesse: This world has a lot of mirrors, doesn't it?
(Flashback to Riley outside of Jesse's hotel room. Riley knocks on the door and Jesse opens)
Jesse: What are you doing here?
Riley: Sorry, Jesse. No one's following me. I doubled-back like you taught me. Jesse, I'm really sorry. Don't get mad at me, please.
Jesse: Phones. That's why we have phones.
Riley: I...I just didn't know where else to go.
Jesse: Yeah, well...not here, sweetie. Any place, but here.
Riley: I got kicked out of my foster home.
Jesse: You did what?
Riley: I got kicked out. They threw me out, cause I hit Kay, my foster mom. I was just freaking out, you know. I started thinking about everything. What's coming for all of us. For them. I just...I need someone to talk to. I need you. And I was thinking, instead of just getting another foster home, that maybe we could find some place close together, like an apartment or something. I'll just tell John I quit school, and...and we can be together.
(Jesse slaps Riley)
Jesse: I'm not here to babysit. And you're not here to feel sorry for yourself. I'm not your friend. I am not your mother. And you are here to keep John Connor away from her! (Referring to Cameron) Go finish your job. Go.


  1. It is an open question whether she did, or they simply spent a platonic night together.
  2. The two Terminators that have been sent to protect John.
  3. For all phone calls, the first words spoken are the Date (Day and month) as a challenge/password to foil a Terminator's voice impersonation tactics. The proper response is the year.