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In 1817, a young Spanish aristocrat, Tessa Alvarado (Tessie Santiago), returns to Spanish California after the death of her father and finds her home in ruins, her father's manservants reduced to stealing. The town where she was born is run by a militaristic governor who abuses his power, resulting in the miscarriage of justice and the poor living conditions of his subjects. Upset about the state of her birth place and the murder of her father, Tessa's path is revealed to her in a mysterious dream where her father comes to her and talks of his murder, his hidden gold, and of his "Avenging Angel". She will take up arms to protect the people from the town's governor and to avenge her father's death. Tessa will do this in disguise behind a mask, becoming that "Avenging Angel", The Queen of Swords.
As the Queen of Swords, Tessa becomes a vision of hope for the people who live in her long oppressed town. She is helped by her long time friend and servant, Marta (Paulina Gálvez), a gypsy employed to look after her when she was sent, at the age of 7, by her father to stay with her uncle and three cousins in Madrid. Marta has great knowledge of the tarot. The Queen of Swords name comes from one of Marta's tarot cards.
Tessa's biggest enemy in the town is Colonel Luis Montoya (Valentine Pelka), the corrupt and tyrannical governor. Montoya is ruthless and cares little for human life other than his own. He believes in executions without fair trials, enslaves the poor people of the town, and blackmails the powerful Dons.
Montoya is aided by his right hand man, Captain Marcus Grisham (Anthony Lemke), an American deserter who escaped execution for killing his commanding officer during the War of 1812. His own self interests test his loyalty to Montoya on a number of occasions and the mission of ridding Montoya of the troublesome Queen of Swords, which his soldiers have a hard time accomplishing due in part to the inaccurate single shot weapons. Grisham is helped by Vera (Elsa Pataky), the unfaithful trophy wife of Don Hidalgo (Tacho González), working as a spy for him.
The Queen occasionally crosses paths with Dr. Robert Helm (Peter Wingfield), an English doctor employed by Montoya who believes in saving lives rather than taking them after his experiences as an officer in the Napoleonic Wars. He has little patience for Tessa, believing her to be a spoiled member of the nobility, and less for the Queen of Swords, despising her because of her use of violence. Helm's relationship with The Queen intensifies throughout the series as events throw them together in life threatening situations.
Queen of Swords aired for eight episodes before being canceled. All 22 episodes are currently available on DVD, but only in France.
The series contains examples of:
- Action Girl: Tessa
- Artistic License Music: When Montoya plays the violin in the first episode, he just draws the bow across the strings in no particular rhythm, and doesn't even bother moving his fingers.
- Badass Spaniard
- Bad Habits: The Queen dresses as a nun in "Honor Thy Father".
- Blondes Are Evil: Vera, the only blonde in the regular cast, is a treacherous, manipulative, adulterous bitch.
- Calling Card: A literal card, the Queen of Swords tarot card.
- Completely Different Title: Became Tessa, à la pointe de l'épée (Tessa at the Point of the Sword) in France, then Sous Le Signe de L'Épée (Under the Sign of the Sword) for the DVD release.
- Contract on the Hitman: In "Duel With a Stranger", Montoya hires a swordsman to kill the Queen, planning to have Grisham then murder the swordsman so he won't have to pay him.
- Cool Horse: Chico
- Cool Mask: Tessa's mask is made from her mother's favourite lace shawl.
- Costume Copycat: "The Counterfeit Queen"
- Dangerous Deserter: Captain Grisham is an American deserter from from the War of 1812. However, the truly dangerous deserter is Krane from "The Hanged Man"; the man they tried to hang in Grisham's place.
- Death By Origin Story: Tessa's father.
- Distaff Counterpart: Of Zorro.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: If the setting and description doesn't make you immediately think "Distaff Counterpart of Zorro" you probably don't even know who Zorro is.
- In fact, Sony sued the producers of Queen of Swords due to its similarities with Zorro. (Sony lost on account of the character being in the public domain.)
- Gender Flip: Of Zorro.
- A Handful for An Eye: Grisham does it to the Queen during the fight in the mine in "Fever".
- Horseback Heroism
- Hot Chick with a Sword: The Queen, obviously.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Approximately Once an Episode, the Queen rides away while soldiers fire after her, missing every shot.
- Man of Wealth and Taste: Colonel Montoya.
- The Man They Couldn't Hang: Krane from "The Hanged Man."
- Murder by Mistake: The plot of "Vengeance."
- No Escape but Down: In "Death to the Queen", the cornered Queen escapes from Captain Grisham by diving off the cliff into the ocean.
- Of Corsets Sexy: The Queen's costume includes a corset.
- Pirate Girl: Mary Rose.
- Powder Trail: In "Death to the Queen."
- President Evil: Colonel Montoya, the evil governor.
- Prisoner of Zenda Exit: See No Escape but Down above.
- Rich Idiot With No Day Job: Tessa.
- Scary Black Man: Lamorena in "The Hanged Man".
- Screwed by the Lawyers: The show was canceled after a lawsuit ordered that no more episodes by aired until the "created by" be amended to include a person who sued the producers. A second lawsuit over the rights to Zorro only made matters worse.
- Secret Keeper: Marta.
- She Fu: The Queen mixed a large amount of acrobatics into her fight scenes.
- Shirtless Scene:
- Grisham gets several, one of which is used in the opening credits.
- Dr. Helm in the bath in "The Dragon."
- Shoot the Rope: Or "slash the rope," to similar effect.
- The Starscream: Captain Grisham.
- Stealth Hi Bye
- Sword Fight
- Taking Over the Town: Krane and his gang do this in "The Hanged Man."
- That Old Time Prescription: In one episode, almost everybody in the village gets sick. Dr. Helm doses them with a practically magical healing elixir, which he later reveals is made from willow bark.
- Waistcoat of Style: Montoya has several.
- Whip It Good
- Wicked Cultured: Colonel Montoya.