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The Real Reason Amy Bailey Left Vikings

Although the History Channel's Vikings has been dominated by male warriors and kings, the show has also given us a few forceful female characters.

The most notable was Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), who could be just as brutal as the men around her (for example, check out the absolute worst thing Lagertha has done on Vikings). And then there was the cunning Queen Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland), who schemed her way to ruling Kattegat before learning the hard way what Lagertha was capable of.

Meanwhile, in Britain, another would-be queen was murdering and manipulating her way to the throne — and intriguing audiences while she was at it. Kwenthrith (Amy Bailey) was the daughter and sister of kings, but she wasn't one to wait on the sidelines of the battlefield (or the bedroom). And when the tide of public opinion shifted against her in her home kingdom of Mercia, she didn't go down without a fight. After a failed escape attempt, she broke into her former lover King Ecbert's (Linus Roache) chambers and threatened to slit his throat. Unfortunately, Ecbert's new mistress and Kwenthrith's former friend, Judith (Jennie Jacques), beat her to it, stabbing Kwenthrith to death.

It's a predictably bloody end for a woman who spent her entire life fighting — but why did her story stop there? Here's the real reason Amy Bailey left Vikings, and how it gave her more sympathy for her complicated character.

Amy Bailey asked to be written out of Vikings

The day her last episode aired — April 7, 2016, if you're taking notes — Bailey had a chat with Entertainment Weekly in which she explained why she left Vikings early in its fourth season. She said that before the season started shooting, the cast of the show was already braced for changes, because they knew there was going to be a time jump. The midseason finale sees the show leap forward "something like six years," as creator Michael Hirst told Variety, bringing a shift in the power dynamics between the adults and their now-grown children.

Bailey had other imminent changes going on in her life: she was pregnant with twins. So when Hirst emailed Bailey to tell her that he'd written a stunt-heavy scene in which Kwenthrith fights off would-be assassins, they both realized the character's run had come to an end. Bailey told Entertainment Weekly that she'd always leaped at the chance to do her own stunts, but in this case, the pregnancy was going to make it tricky. "I called him up and said, 'Dude, I'm gonna be really big by the time we film that,'" she recalled. "They knew that they had to write me out." She did perform some of the scene herself, even though she was six months pregnant by then.

It helped that her character was also pregnant for those final scenes. Bailey told Entertainment Weekly that seeing Kwenthrith as a mother-to-be brought a new dynamic to her personality. "A turning point in my mind in creating this character was when she had Magnus. I think that was... the only true love she had ever known," she said.

Amy Bailey felt more connected to her character when she left Vikings

Kwenthrith was a complicated character. On the one hand, she's trapped by the circumstances of being born a woman in an era when that made things like claiming the throne and surviving childhood unmolested tricky. On the other hand, she does poison her brother Burgred (Aaron Monaghan) after promising that he wouldn't be harmed if he surrendered to her forces. But that's what you get for being a threat to the throne — plus, he did team up against Kwenthrith with the uncle whose actions in her childhood severely traumatized her.

Bailey said that like the Vikings audience, she gradually came to understand Kwenthrith's backstory and the impact it had on her as the series went on. "It was her always trying to gain control of what happened to her," Bailey told Entertainment Weekly.

If you know the reason Alyssa Sutherland left Vikings after season 4, you know that Sutherland felt that her character Aslaug was always doomed to die. Bailey felt similarly about Kwenthrith. "I think she knew that Ecbert was gonna kill her and kill her child. It felt like an inevitable thing for her," she explained to Entertainment Weekly.

Killing off a character you've embodied for so long takes an emotional toll — that's partly why the toughest Vikings scene Katheryn Winnick had to shoot was Lagertha's death (the mud, rain, and cold also didn't help). But Bailey advocated for her character to have a death worthy of her life as a fighter. "I said to [Hirst], 'I feel so strongly that Kwenthrith is going down fighting. She's gonna take down as many people as she can,'" she said to Entertainment Weekly. Kwenthrith may not have held down the throne of Mercia, but she made her mark.