Spoiler Alert: Daredevil Ep. 12 in which my heart is broken
It seems that the choice is which minor character — that people care just enough about to understand why the loss matters to the main character they’re really here to see — should be killed to move the plot along.
The nature of American narrative culture means that the sacrifice will either be a woman or Black person with extra pathos points for combining the two. As for the trope in superhero comics of the woman biting the dust, it’s happened enough that it’s been given a name “fridging” or “women in refrigerators” http://lby3.com/wir/index.html
It’s considered less of a trope and more of a truism and a joke that the black character is going to die. Indeed, it’s often true, but after the first dozen or so times (give or take eleven), it is no longer funny. Not in a universe where one is almost never the hero and have a 90% chance of not making it to the end of the story. (see http://www.bunchecenter.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/2015-Hollywood-Diversity-Report-2-25-15.pdf and http://www.feoamante.com/Movies/Racial/racial.html#.VTVEcZOiN5Q)
At first I thought they had given me the Daredevil I’d always wanted: Matt and Foggy in their Hell’s Kitchen office actually working the law. Battling Jack Murdoch’s son going out into the night because he can’t stand not trying to save the world with his bare hands when he finds that the law isn’t enough. An utterly terrifying Kingpin.
I even squealed to see Josie’s Bar, the front window not even shattered yet, and while it was disconcerting to see it as a hangout for our protagonists, it still seemed a sign that this show was going to get what I remember of Frank Miller’s run on the comic book right, in spirit, which was all I really asked for.
As a bonus, we’re even given a Ben Urich, worn-down reporter who still has the chops to tell the truth even when nobody else will.
Part of the problem, I guess, even though I’m open to all sorts of variants, reboots, re-tellings, and retcons (I’m a comic book fan; you get philosophical about the changes different writers will bring. Or just outright pissed; I admit it), I knew how it was supposed to go, at least in the broad strokes. I was hoping that Ben Urich’s established narrative fate would be enough to save him from the destiny that the casting of the role seemed to plan for him.
You see, if Matt Murdoch is the Devil of Hell’s kitchen, Ben Urich is meant to be the Voice of the same, chronicler of the hero, to be sure, but also the guy meant to tell the little guy’s stories, our guy on the beat, extraordinary in the way that normal humans, not superheroes, can be.
I get why it played out this way. I get the subtext, the commentary on our gutted Fifth-estate, post-9/11, post-news-organizations-turned-money-machines world.
The Kingpin (Wilson Fisk) is meant to be implacable, unstoppable, a crazed personification of those forces who seek to make the world a better place by first eliminating what he perceives as the unworthy, the cause of all the problems. Kingpin bulldozes those people into the ground before he even begins to raze their tenements. After that, he plans to build his dream city which is clean and rich and white.
Since they couldn’t have someone actually saying “But you’re lying, but you’re killing” without keeping it balanced with a “Let’s have an opposing view” moment — which would, of course, consist of the liars and the killers — well, Ben Urich, like the Fifth-estate he is a stand-in for, would simply have to go.
Unlike the real news machines, left with just enough life in them to keep an eye on profit-margins and make space for more agenda than truth, Ben Urich is throttled to death, thrown like a ragdoll, throat crushed, voice silenced, and buried the very next episode.
In the alternate universe of the comics, Urich gets to work in symphony with the Daredevil, working the problems of injustice from a different angle. He wrote prose that mattered.
But not in this post-9/11 world. Not on Netflix.
For this version, they had to kill him.
So they made very sure to make him a Black man first.