Who will rule The Seven Kingdoms? Q&A: Game of Thrones professor

Distinguished professor at Western University, John Leonard, breaks down the appeal of HBO's epic fantasy series Game of Thrones and gives his take on who will end up sitting on the Iron Throne.

If you're not up to date with the HBO series, be warned, spoilers are ahead

John Leonard is an English professor at Western University. For the past three years he's dedicated an entire course to teach students about the Game of Thrones universe. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC News)

The wait is almost over for Game of Thrones fans. After eight seasons, the HBO epic fantasy is coming to an end tonight. 

London Morning host Rebecca Zandbergen sat down with John Leonard, a professor from Western University's English department who teaches a course on the Game of Thrones universe through George R. R. Martin's series A Song of Ice and Fire

Leonard discusses everything from how the show has managed to captivate audiences for almost a decade to who he thinks will sit on the Iron Throne. 

Why do you think the Game of Thrones story is so appealing?

Well, one of the things that is so remarkable about the show is that it's appealing to not just the people who like fantasy. One of the answers is that most of the characters don't believe in fantasy either. If you ask most people who don't read fantasy why they don't read fantasy, they will say something like 'I don't believe in dragons.' Well, Cersei Lannister didn't believe in dragons either until the day one turned up on her doorstep. Much of the meat in the books and the TV show is about the human drama and the real world politics of a fictional medieval society that has fantasy elements on the boundaries right? They're north of the wall and across the sea. Only now, in the final season, do we see those two worlds collide.

Yes, it's also about the power struggle, right?

Very much so. A recurrent theme throughout the books and the TV show, which we've certainly seen in the most recent episode, is what is the best strategy for a ruler? Is it love or fear? And one of the most haunting lines that Daenerys used was 'let it be fear.' That's straight out of the 16th century Italian political theorist [Niccolo] Machiavelli who advised the ruler or prince that the secret to stay in power is to choose fear over love. That is one of the big questions throughout the Game of Thrones series. Which is better? Love or fear? That question pops up as early as season one, season two, and also, the most recent episode

What's interesting now about the series is that it's gone beyond the books. In the earlier seasons it's complicated and convoluted to make sense of all the intertwining narratives and now it's very simplistic. Is that sort of a function of the fact that they're not following a book anymore?

It's certainly the case that the TV show has simplified the books out of necessity. There were many more characters and the twists in the narrative are far more complicated in the books than in the show, which is a disappointment to some purists who love the books, but, I cannot fault the HBO producers for that. I think it's a necessary decision and I think for the most part they've handled it well. One of the criticisms of the most recent episode is that it's been rushed and that there has been insufficient preparation for the revelation of Daenerys' madness.

My pushback to that, and I would actually defend the show on this, is that if somebody loses their sanity in real life, that often does take the loved ones around them by surprise and you can see it in historical characters too. A parallel to Daenerys is the Roman general Gaius Marius who having saved Rome against northern barbarians, just as Daenerys does, then totally loses it and ends up turning on Rome.

One last question, who is going to be the ultimate ruler?

Ah! I don't have the answer and that's a great tribute to the show and the books. My prediction, and I'm not confident at all, but if I had to vote at this stage, it would be for Gendry and Arya