Riley is the only daughter of Diane (Michael Michele) and Elwood Davis (Billy Baldwin). Her parents split up early in Riley’s childhood due to her father being abusive towards her mother.
When she was twelve, Riley’s mother began dating Jack Dalton (George Eads) who at the time was working for the CIA but used a cover of being a bathroom tile salesman. During this time, Riley and Jack became very close and she has stated that he was the closest thing to a father she had. Jack too has said that he loved Riley as a daughter.
It was this close relationship which caused her resentment when Jack left after giving her real father a beating in response to catching him physically abusing her mother. Jack claims he “left for Riley’s sake” as he “didn’t want to screw her up”, but she responded saying she viewed him as her father and he had walked out on her.
Over the years, Riley learned how to take care of herself, put the people closest to her above her own needs and developed her hacking skills using the name Artemis37. At one point, she hacked into the Pentagon just to see if she could. She started taking on hacking jobs for a group known as ‘The Collective’ until they requested that she hack the NSA. After saying no, they threatened her mother’s life. Riley carried out the hack as requested but deliberately left a trail to allow herself to get caught and subsequently sentenced to five years in prison. Her logic was that while in prison she had no access to computers, so she could no longer work for ‘The Collective’ meaning they had no reason to threaten her mother again.
She has now become an invaluable member of the Phoenix team, providing technology support while they are on missions.
Although she only spent 2 years of her sentence in prison, she found it extremely traumatic and is more than happy to be released for an important mission at the request of MacGyver (Lucas Till) after Jack recommended her to the DXS as a useful team member.
Patricia Thornton (Sandrine Holt) agrees to let her stay on probation; teaching her some martial arts skills herself. MacGyver’s roommate Wilt Bozer (Justin Hires) helps Riley by posing as her boyfriend in order to present a good image to her parole officer or by posing as her manager to find an affordable apartment to rent. In return, she gives him one digit of her phone number for every good deed.
While Bozer clearly has a crush on her, she doesn’t return the feelings. They manage to stay friends and work together amicably.
After Elwood finally got sober and tried to bring his life in order, Riley agrees to stay in contact with her father and to try to mend their relationship; also helping him getting out of trouble.
After a near-death-experience on a plane, Riley starts dating Billy Colton. He asks her to come work for the Colton family so they can spend more time together, but Riley doesn’t want to leave her Phoenix family.
Just before Elwood’s job interview, a SWAT team storms Riley’s home, arresting both him and Riley who had tried to teach Elwood something about computer basics.