Riley Davis is an ex-hacker who now works as a field agent for the Phoenix Foundation utilizing her skills as the team’s technology expert.
She joined the team at Jack Dalton’s suggestion when they needed help extracting encrypted information from a recovered computer. At the time she was 2 years into a 5-year prison sentence for hacking the NSA’s computer system, but at MacGyver’s urging Patricia Thornton had Riley released into their custody where she quickly proved her worth and her willingness to take the second chance being offered to her.
The only child of Diane Davis (Michael Michele) and Elwood Davis (Billy Baldwin), Riley grew up living with her mother from early childhood after her parents split up due to her father being abusive towards her mother.
When she was twelve, Riley’s mother began dating Jack Dalton (George Eads). During this time, Jack was working for the CIA, but used a cover of being a bathroom tile salesman. 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 that 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, putting the people closest to her above her own needs. Using the name Artemis37, she continued to develop her hacking skills and even hacked into the Pentagon just to see if she could. She eventually met and became good friends with fellow hackers Peyton, and Kai and together they developed ‘N3MESIS’, a ransomware app designed to find and expose security vulnerabilities in computer systems.
The three of them vowed to use the code for ‘white hat’ hacking and over the next few months, they used the N3MESIS trojan to find vulnerabilities in banking software. Eventually, their exploits and code became famous in the hacking community and gaining the attention of notorious hacking organization “The Collective”, who promptly offered all three of them work.
Riley took The Collective’s offer and started taking on hacking jobs for them until they requested that she hack the NSA. After saying no, they threatened her mother’s life so 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.
Although she only spent 2 years of her sentence in prison, she found it extremely traumatic and was more than happy to be released for an important mission at the request of Angus MacGyver (Lucas Till) after Jack recommended her to the DXS as a useful team member.
Patricia Thornton (Sandrine Holt) agreed to let her stay on probation; teaching her some martial arts skills herself. MacGyver’s roommate Wilt Bozer (Justin Hires) helped 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. Despite this, they manage to stay friends and work together amicably.
In Episode 1×11 (Scissors), Riley seemingly disappears. As it turns out, “The Collective” kidnapped Diane, threatening to kill her if Riley doesn’t hack the Chinese government to steal a nuclear weapon. MacGyver, Jack, and Riley manage to save both Diane from being strangled and the US from a nuclear attack. While Diane suspects that Phoenix isn’t just a Think Tank, she still doesn’t know that Riley actually works as an agent on dangerous missions.
In the Season 1 finale, the Phoenix Foundation is breached and infiltrated. During a struggle, Riley is forced to kill Daniel Holt (William Mapother) in self-defense. Despite stating she’s fine, the experience proves to be traumatic for her; influencing her decision-making skills in later episodes.
After getting sober once more, Elwood meets up with Riley, trying to make amends. Riley isn’t sure at first but later agrees to stay in contact and giving him another chance.
After Riley tells Jack about it, Jack watches them from afar while they are having dinner in a restaurant and finds out that someone wants to kill Elwood. With Riley’s help, they manage to save Elwood’s life.
After a near-death-experience on a plane in Episode 2×18, Riley starts dating bounty hunter Billy Colton (Lance Gross). 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. As it later turns out, all the Phoenix agent’s private addresses have been leaked online.
While on a mission in Paris in Episode 3×21, Riley finds “sexy” text messages on Billy’s phone to another woman. She breaks up with him without discussing the reason, believing that he’s not worth her time.
After the Phoenix Foundation was shut down and disbanded, Riley, like the other team members, was left to her own devices. Unable to get any government contracts due to all the red tape created by the shutdown she took a job working for a local IT repair company called “Silicon Value”