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The Real Reason Vikings' Showrunner Brought Back This Fan-Favorite Character

For many in the sprawling cast of characters of History and Amazon Prime Video's Vikings, the second half of the series' sixth and final season was the end of an era.

Ticking everyone's fate off sounds a bit like trying to remember what happened to all of Henry VIII's wives: dead, beheaded, converted, also dead, captured, stabbed in the gut repeatedly by some rando and dead, mostly dead — you get the picture. But amidst the bloodshed and conflict, the show found room for some optimism in the storyline of Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith), who finally reaches the Golden Land west of Iceland he's spent much of the final season searching for. Ubbe overcomes his early trials with the indigenous communities whose land he has arrived on, and seems set upon staying and making a life in the New World, giving the show a chance to look forward as well as backward.

But he wasn't the first Viking to make landfall there — not even in this fictional continuity. Not long after he arrives, the natives take Ubbe to see someone they call a "crazy man," and he learns that he was beaten ashore by his father's old friend, the strange shipbuilder Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård), last seen in Iceland exploring a cave that turned out to be an active volcano. 

The mystery of Floki's survival

How exactly Floki survived and left Iceland is never revealed, but series creator Michael Hirst said in an interview with ET that he never doubted that Floki would survive and return to the show before it finished. "That wasn't the way that Floki was going to leave the show," Hirst said, "or leave life, indeed, because he was the spirit of life."

If there was anyone who could have built and sailed a boat alone from Iceland to somewhere around Newfoundland it was Floki, whose shipbuilding genius and general eccentricity were well-established in the show's first five seasons. Disappearing into a volcanic crater in Iceland and emerging in some other part of the world also calls to mind the plot of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth

However he came to arrive in the Golden Land, Hirst wanted to highlight that Floki had been changed by his journey. "What kind of a person was he?" Hirst asked ET rhetorically. "Had he found some peace? Had he been damaged in his experiences?" Though he still plays the trickster with Ubbe in the show's final scene, Floki rejects Ubbe's attempt to ask him about the Gods, a subject about which he was once passionate. When Ubbe asks him for advice, Floki recommends always removing the pebbles from his shoes, good advice for anyone, really.

The final half-season of Vikings is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.