"He dies for the same reason Obi Wan Kenobi, Dumbledore and Gandalf had to die," observed James Hibberd in his Entertainment Weekly recap of "Baelor." "It takes the Stark kids--who are all too young to face these responsibilities--and thrusts them into a struggle where they're forced to quickly grow as characters."
The Stark patriarch's decapitation is a risky move that immediately reminded me of the death of Captain Avatar at the end of the first season of Star Blazers, a redubbed and censored-for-kids American version of Yoshinobu Nishizaki and Leiji Matsumoto's Space Battleship Yamato, a serialized '70s Japanese cartoon about a crew of intergalactic war survivors who, in season 1, journey through space to find an alien device that will help undo the nuclear radiation that damaged Earth.
Star Blazers first aired in 1979, during the height of the first Star Wars film's popularity, but I first caught the show as a kid a few years later. (The Argo in the midst of combat was my favorite image to doodle on my schoolwork in first grade.) I had been enjoying reruns of the cartoon's first season during Syfy's Thursday night anime programming block last month, before Syfy took Star Blazers off the air permanently last week. Apparently, the network doesn't have enough spots on its schedule for seven-year-old reruns of Stargate: Special Victims Unit.
Ned's demise is undoubtedly one of the most shocking character deaths in TV history (some Game of Thrones fans are steamed about it and have expressed their displeasure to HBO). But the grizzled Avatar's long, slow death from radiation poisoning decades before Ned's execution is slightly more daring. What other space opera on TV at the time had the guts to kill off its captain? Also, the drawn-out death of the crusty old coot, who was called Okita in the Space Battleship Yamato incarnation of Star Blazers, is something you don't expect to see in an animated show from that era, even one that was made for adults like the original incarnation of Star Blazers (animation is taken more seriously in Japan than here in America).