The Last Kingdom has introduced its first deaf character in its final season, which dropped on Netflix as a binge-watch launch today (9th March).

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The semi-factual drama series chronicles how several disparate kingdoms came together to form what we now know as England, from the point of view of fictional warrior Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon).

A pivotal setting in the opening episodes is Eoferwic, a town in the kingdom of Northumbria and one of the last remaining Dane settlements, ruled by Uhtred's daughter Stiorra (Ruby Hartley) and her husband Sigtryggr (Eysteinn Sigurðarson).

Taking place about a decade after the events of season 4, much has changed in their lives and that includes the company they keep, with Stiorra having formed a friendship with loyal servant Hella – played by deaf actor Lara Steward.

The two characters communicate primarily through sign language and come to rely on each other even more as a looming threat targets their peaceful life.

Back in the 10th century, it's unlikely that there was any version of sign language as sophisticated as the dominant forms used today, although there is evidence for communication through hand gestures dating back to Ancient Greece and biblical times.

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The Last Kingdom fans may recognise Steward, who previously played Maxine in BBC One drama The Silence and last year appeared in LGBTQ+ drama Upon Her Lips: Heartbeats, while she also works on audiobooks for author Nell Pattison.

There has been much conversation about deaf representation in the media over the past six months, during which time Rose Ayling-Ellis has triumphed on Strictly Come Dancing and Marvel Studios has introduced two deaf superheroes.

The first was Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) in big-screen blockbuster Eternals, while Echo (Alaqua Cox) soon followed in streaming series Hawkeye, with the latter character confirmed to be getting a spin-off show of her own.

The Last Kingdom seasons 1-5 are available to stream on Netflix. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.

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