Definition of the Trope: Unlike many of the other Tropes in question, The Tragic Warrior is one that hurts the most and smashes the dreams of viewers of color like a ton of bricks. Often times, Tragic Warriors are smart, intelligent, savvy, and strong. They tend to be the lead warriors on the front lines or leading groups into battle. Their skills are rarely questioned, their orders always trusted, and their instincts usually right.
Unfortunately, before the end of the show, the Tragic Warrior will meet an ignominious death at the hands of a treacherous enemy. This will usually happen before the beginning of the third act, when their skills would be at their most useful.
Why This Trope Fails: Usually, the death of this character is supposed to mark a change in one or more of the main characters (the surviving characters almost always Caucasian, by the way) behavioral tendencies. Yet, death of a Version 4 Trope Character is neither shocking nor poignant. And, far too often, the death of this character comes at a moment that was probably written to seem either ironic or surprising – or even brave; but comes off as being pointless the moment the character passes on (or away). And whatever posthumous honor you bestow on this character is equally pointless – the character, regardless of how heroic they may have been in the final moments, is still dead.
Additional Trope Notes: This trope tends to be inhabited more by Men of Color, particularly by Black Men (often referred to by its coined name, “The Magical Negro.”). Although the gender gets changed here, the end result is the same – the Woman of Color is scheduled to die so that the Caucasian character(s) either live on by the Woman of Color’s self-sacrifice, OR the Caucasian characters are “forced” to re-examine their own lives before taking up machine guns and blasting the bad guys to Swiss Cheese. Meanwhile, the show reduces its Characters of Color to the usual very small number it started out with – or, in the case of many Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror movies, the number will reduce to two, one, or (most often) Zero.
How to Avoid Falling for This Trope: Simple. Let them live. Women of Color get few roles with any kind of active participation and Character Agency as it is. Creating a Trope 4 character is reinforcement that a Women of Color who takes an active heroic role in the story and dying is no better than a Woman of Color who remains in the background doing nothing OR screwing things up for everybody else.
Example of the Trope: Big Bertha of Robocop 3. When OCP began to force people of their homes in the Cadillac Heights district of Old Detroit, Bertha organized a resistance effort against the OCP “Rehabilitation Squads.” Their efforts were moderately successful – and those efforts were bolster when Robocop joined the resistance.. Unfortunately, she was killed when one of the members of the Resistance betrayed them and the Rehab squads invaded their base.
Example of the Trope: Kendra of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Series. When Buffy died and found herself in hell, Kendra was ‘tapped’ to become the next “Slayer.” However, Buffy was not so much dead as she was “stuck” in Hell. But since the physical body was considered dead, Kendra was tapped with the power. Buffy, as it turns out, would come back – and start clashing with Kendra and just about everything Kendra stood for. The two would join forces, but Kendra ends up dead shortly thereafter.
Example of the Trope: Lorain Katrin of Battlestar Galactica. When she was first introduced, she was initially an “Incompetent” (Trope 3) with a touch of drug addiction. However, it would come to pass that Lorraine surpasses Kara Thrace in terms of piloting ability. Unfortunately, Kara Thrace is the show’s resident Mary Sue character, so Katrin was slapped in Season 3 three with “Traitor” and “Tragic Warrior,” all in the same episode.
Notable Exception to the Trope: Lt. Dietre of Battlestar Galactica (Original). Dietre is smart, committed, an exceptional pilot, and a Colonial Warrior whose skills and bravery make her a match for any pilot in the Fleet. This means that she was not a victim of Tropes 1, 2, or 3. And because Larson and Company had her live by the end of the story, Dietre avoids Trope 4.