To me, Zoe Washburne was a fleshed-out, well-rounded character of color. Well...as far as a group of white writers go, anyway (which, by the way, shows that it can be done).
She's a tough, no-nonsense "warrior woman", yes, but she's also a humorous, loving wife who wanted to have kids some day. We see bad-ass, sci-fi/fantasy veteran Gina Torres flash her legendary smile dozens of times throughout the short-lived series, and we see her anxious and looking wounded during arguments with her husband. She loves, and is loved - a rarity for black female characters in Hollywood.
Which is precisely why killing her husband was a major fail.
We finally have this fleshed-out character with so much potential - more than we usually see, whether or on film or television - and her husband gets whacked? So that what...she becomes the grim, empty, loveless person a black female character is supposed be? What the hell was that?
You know, I've listened to Joss Whedon's commentary on Serenity a few times and I'm not impressed. Just like I'm not impressed with the commentary at the end of Angel season 5 - different rant for a different blog anyway. Whedon states Zoe's husband was killed off to show the realism of the battle, or something like that. Um...kill off Inara. Fuck, kill off Simon, or even River. Kill off whomever you have to keep Zoe's characterization intact.
White writers...a fashion tip from Moi: if you are fortunate enough to finally stumble across a formula to build an awesome character of color, then stop, assess and take stock of all the variables contributing to the balance, depth, and beauty of that character.
Once you've identified all the characteristics, do not fuck with them.