Queen of Swords

Season 1 Episode 1


Aired Saturday 10:30 PM Oct 07, 2000 on
out of 10
User Rating
13 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

When Tessa Alvarado learns of her father's death in California in a fall from his horse, she abandons her life in Spain and returns to her birthplace. She quickly learns all is not well. Her father's servant, Carlos, has turned to robbery and been arrested, the house is in disrepair and in arrears on taxes to the military governor, Colonel Montoya. Her servant, Marta, learns Tessa's father has been murdered but no one will listen and is helpless as her father's manservant is executed. In a dream her father comes to her and speaks of his murder, his hidden gold, and of his "avenging angel." To oppose Montoya, and seek justice she becomes her father's "avenging angel" the Queen of Swords, the name taken from one of Marta's tarot cards.moreless

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  • The PERFECT start to one of the BEST TV shows I've ever come across.

    Please Note: This review contains spoilers.


    Everyone knows Zorro, obviously. So to stumble across clips of a FEMALE Zorro on good old YouTube, fighting crime and standing up for the people, defending them from Spanish oppressors would be tantamount to either plagiarism or blashphemy. But I saw neither of those things with my first viewing of the Queen of Swords.

    I saw another strong, central female protagonist in her own TV series. Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, Dark Angel, Relic Hunter: those kind of shows were popping up all over the place during the 90s and 00s. Very popular and actually very good (Alias of course was excellent). But to learn of Tessa Alvarado and her alter ego (played by Tessie Santiago in her first-ever professional role), TEN years after the show was first broadcast...well, why hadn't I heard of it before? That's why I immediately decided to check it out.

    Destiny was a crucial episode. The very first episode in any TV show is always the trickiest to do. Because if it flops, then the challenge to gain a following and successful viewership beomes ten times harder. And even though ratings and poor promotion may say otherwise, I consider Destiny an absolute triumph.

    From start to finish, the presentation is flawless. The episode beautifully establishes everything from plot to characters. We get a vibrant cast of colourful characters and the perfect actors/actresses to portray them. We have Tessa Alvarado (Santiago), the confident, capable and beautiful aristocrat whose world is suddenly turned upside down, we have Marta (Paulina Galvez), the Gypsy Servant who gives her mistress the motherly love and support she needs, we have Vera Hidalgo (Elsa Pataky), the unfaithful, yet kind-hearted Senora, and the perfect rogues in murderous Captain Grisham (Anthony Lemke) and the cold and calculating Colonel Montoya (Valentine Pelka). With such deep memorable characters, you have all the tools necessary for a great show and a great first episode.

    The focus is obviously primarily on Tessa Alvarado throughout, and it's superbly written and directed. Tessa is truly a wonderful character, witty, intelligent, beautiful, tragic and strong. With her fencing lessons with her teacher Torres (Anthony DeLongis), you get a sense of likeability radiating from her. Then the pain she experiences from learning of her father's death, to her realisation that she has to go home to California and face the world, to learning that it was murder, to seeing the ruination of her home and the rest of Santa Helena and the opressive ruthlessness of Colonel Montoya and how hopeless it all seems...you can't help but really feel for Tessa and get behind her. She has such depth and to see her evolve and begin to showcase her potential after what she endures makes for a really compelling journey.

    Then there's her transformation into the Queen of Swords. On paper, the idea of Tessa's deceased father Don Alvardao (Jose Sancho) coming to her in a dream, confirming his murder, his hidden gold and his 'Avenging Angel'...sounds really corny and groan-worthy. But because the idea is presented so well, the whole sequence is just so plausible and makes for terrific viewing. The sequence with Tessa being visited by her dead father, then waking up to pick up a tarot card placed by Marta, finding the hidden room and gold behind the wine cellar, seeing her destiny in the mirror, inspired to become the Queen of Swords...was all just so believable and enthralling to watch. As origins go, it was absolutely fantastic, and to see her best both Grisham and Montoya and the real symbol of hope finally arriving in a setting that desperately needed some was inspiring.

    And Tessie Santiago's performance? She won me over right from the get-go, bringing Tessa Alvarado and the Queen of Swords to life just as required. For her first professional role, she did very well indeed. Tessie conveyed all the raw emotion, confidence, inner strength, uncertainty, compassion, intelect, humour and elegance neccesary. Granted, she was a bit green here and there (much like the Queen herself when starting out), and her swordplay was rather rusty during the fight scene with Grisham, but Santiago clearly showed potential and would improve tremendously over the course of the series, in terms of fight scenes, horesriding and overall acting.

    The highlights for me were the duel with Senor Torres (Despite divided opinion of his acting, DeLongis knew about fighting and stunt work), the heartbreaking death of Don Alvardo, the whole dream sequence, discovery scene with Marta, Tessa's transformation into the Queen of Swords and the victory at the end.

    The fight scene with Grisham in the jail house I really loved as well. Though intially starting out as a sort of dance, the swordfight really picked up steam in the latter stages and the Queen using her skill to negate Grisham's superior strength made for a clever and credible win. Of course, seeing Tessa triumph as the Queen at the end, then feigning a dizzy spell to fool and infuriate Montoya even further, and Marta pull the covers off to reveal Tessa still donning her Queen outfit behind closed doors to cement their victory just made me laugh out loud and applaud.

    Destiny may have signified that better days were to follow, and there may have been holes here and there (like exactly how Tessa got her costume together and where her horse Chico came from), but I can easily forgive and forget things like that when James Thorpe's script, Jon Caeser's direction and the acting were all just so good. Dialogue, character, Spencer Proffer's wonderful music, gave life to an absolute diamond of an episode.

    Having watched every episode of the show, I personally don't think there's a better episode of Queen of Swords then Destiny. Death to the Queen, Takes a Thief, The Return, Vengeance and so many more were outstanding, but the first episode just couldn't be topped (only equalled by Takes A Thief).

    Want to know why Queen of Swords was such an excellent show that deserved so much more? THIS is why. Essential viewing.

    Final rating: 10/10moreless
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  • Destiny introduces six of the seven main characters. Dr Helm follows in the next episode

    The opening episode filmed third after Death to the Queen and Vengeance to give the actors time to understand their roles again directed by Jon Cassar is driven by Tessa, discovering through Marta that her father was murdered, wanting justice and discovering there is none under Montoya's law. Montoya played by Valentine Pelka with an understated menace. Tessa's helplessness and anger is highlighted by Marta, played by Paulina Galvez ever ready to tell Tessa of her shortcomings, but hope comes in the plot device of a dream that Marta interprets through the Tarot cards. From the dream her father tells of his hidden gold, of his avenging angel. Tessa vows to become that avenging angel The Queen of Swords. Tessie Santiago bring to the part a vunerability as Tessa and confidence as The Queen using surprise as her main weapon. Montoya's scheming with Captain Grisham played by Anthony Lemke who relishes his part giving a defiant personality to his character.

    Elsa Pataky and Tacho Gonzalez have small parts in this packed opening episode with the Spanish locations being beautifully photographed.moreless
Anthony Lemke

Anthony Lemke

Captain Marcus Grisham

Tessie Santiago

Tessie Santiago

María Teresa 'Tessa' Alvarado/the Queen of Swords

Elsa Pataky

Elsa Pataky

Senora Vera Hidalgo

Paulina Gálvez

Paulina Gálvez


Valentine Pelka

Valentine Pelka

Colonel Luís Montoya

Tacho González

Tacho González

Don Gaspar Hidalgo

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

    • The first 10 seconds of the episode, the sword lesson between Tessa and Torres, the film is reversed with the swords appearing to be in their left hands and the table in the background is on the left when for the rest of the action it is on the right.

  • QUOTES (5)

  • NOTES (2)

    • Chico The Queens horse, throughout the series, wears a bridle and breastplate that are identical to the one worn by Toronado, Zorro's horse, in the Zorro 1990 TV series of the same name starring Duncan Regehr filmed at studios outside Madrid. The same bridle and breastplate are also worn by Toronado in the 1975 film of Zorro starring Alain Delon also filmed in Spain.

    • "Destiny" was the third episode to be filmed with some back-to-back filming with episode four "Vengeance" the second to be filmed with the Napoleonic war scenes and Dr Helm. "Death to the Queen" was the first episode to be filmed.