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. In her alter ego as the Queen of Swords, she is a Dashing Hispanic.
- 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.
- Bad Habits: The Queen dresses as a nun in "Honor Thy Father".
- Battle Butler: While not quite Alfred levels of badass, Marta is a pretty good fighter for "just" a servant. In "The Witness", she singlehandedly fights off Mary Rose's Mooks until their boss personally steps in.
- Calling Card: A literal card, the Queen of Swords tarot card.
- Clip Show: "End of Days", with the standard-issue Locked in a Room framing device. And quite a bit of Foe Yay, too.
- 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, the Queen's dashing white stallion.
- Cool Mask: Tessa wears a very elegant black lace mask (even if it is otherwise a Domino Mask) made from her mother's favorite shawl.
- Costume Copycat: In "The Counterfeit Queen", a villainess copies the Queen's costume to frame her for crimes she did not commit.
- 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 is murdered in the first episode. It is his death that causes Tessa to don the mask and take up the identity of the Queen of Swords.
- Deadpan Snarker: Montoya, at times.Captain Grisham: We lost them.Montoya: You will note the complete lack of surprise on my face.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: If the setting and description doesn't make you immediately think "Distaff Counterpart / Gender Flip 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.)
- Feudal Overlord: Colonel Montoya, the evil governor and ultimate political power in the province. Several episodes have the local Dons threatening to report him to the King (or at least the Viceroy), but it never lasts.
- A Handful for an Eye: Grisham does it to the Queen during the fight in the mine in "Fever".
- Horseback Heroism: Many epsiodes contain a dramatic scene of the Queen charging to the rescue on her Cool Horse Chico.
- 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: As befits his position as the wealthiest and most powerful man in the province, Colonel Montoya is easily the most stylish and best dressed of the male characters.
- The Man They Couldn't Hang: Krane from "The Hanged Man". The US Army attempted to hang him Grisham's place. He survived, but his neck was broken and cocked at a strange angle.
- Murder by Mistake: The plot of "Vengeance". An assassin takes a shot at Dr. Helm but hits the Don standing next to him.
- 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 which accentuates her figure. The Vamp Vera has many scenes of her lounging around in her corset as she waits for her lover to arrive.
- Pirate Girl: Mary Rose is an ex-pirate who has retired to rake up ranching. Kidnapping her son is a bad mistake.
- Powder Trail: Used to collapse the mine on top of the Queen in "Death to the Queen." Krane and his gang later attempt this on Montoya and his convoy in "The Hanged Man", but Grisham throws himself atop the fuse at the last second.
- Prisoner of Zenda Exit: In "Death to the Queen", the injured and cornered Queen escapes from Captain Grisham by diving off a cliff into the ocean.
- Rearing Horse: The Queen's Big Damn Hero moments are often announced by her appearing on her rearing White Stallion Chico.
- Rich Idiot with No Day Job: Tessa plays the role of a spoiled heiress.
- Scary Black Man: Lamorena, The Dragon to Krane in "The Hanged Man".
- Secret Keeper: Marta is the only one who knows that Tessa is secretly the Queen, and helps to cover for her.
- She-Fu: The Queen mixed a large amount of acrobatics into her fight scenes (which was probably very helpful given her situation).
- 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. In the first episode charges the gallows on Chico just as the stool is being kicked out from under the victim. She slashes the rope with the sword as he drops, allowing him to drop harmlessly to the ground.
- Stab the Scorpion: Done in "The Serpent" by Doctor Helm. In this case, he deliberately meant to scare Tessa, as a challenge to her casual (by his standards) attitude toward killing.
- The Starscream: Captain Grisham is constantly plotting to dispose of Colonel Montoya and take his place.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: The Queen is an expert at this. Dr. Helm will frequently turn around during his conversations with the Queen only to find she has left while his back was turned.
- Sword Fight: Once an Episode (at least).
- Sympathetic Adulterer: Tessa's closest "society" friend Vera shamelessly sleeps around whenever her husband's not looking - usually with Captain Grisham. The show rarely comes close to condemning any of this.
- Taking Over the Town: Krane and his gang do this in "The Hanged Man", imprisoning all the men in town so they can loot the town without resistance.
- 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.
- Training the Peaceful Villagers: In "The Hanged Man", following the takeover, the Queen has to train the Dons' wives to fight back.
- Waistcoat of Style: Montoya has several, as befits A Man Of Wealth And Taste.
- White Stallion: The Queen's Cool Horse is a white stallion named Chico.
- Whip It Good: Besides her rapier, the Queen's other major weapon is a whip that she wields with considerable skill.
- Wicked Cultured: Colonel Montoya. He is educated, extremely well-dressed, has fine taste in food and wine, and plays the violin like a virtuoso.