Queen of Swords TV Show - Review by Diane Wilkes

Always on the alert for television tarot sightings, I was delighted to learn about a new television show, Queen of Swords.  I was even more delighted when told there was some tarot content.   I was able to obtain a copy of the series opener, and my delight soon turned into...well, not despair, exactly, but disenchantment wouldn't be too strong a term.

I really don't expect much of television, in terms of tarot content.  I'm happy with a brief mention or glimpse of a deck.  I surely don't expect an accurate (read: intelligent) portrayal of tarot, and I expected it even less of this show, as I was told it is geared towards teenagers.  My expectations were low, yet Queen of Swords managed to slink beneath them like a mad limbo dancer.

The opening scene takes place in Spain, with a dark-haired beauty, Maria Teresa, engaged in swordplay with a rakish man.  Turns out he's Maria's duelling instructor--and she's his best pupil.  But alas, she must leave his tutorship.  Maria's father has died, and she must return home...to California in the year of 1817, when Spaniards considered California a distaff nation.

Maria and her trusty "gypsy" maid, Marta (yes...you guessed it: she's the tarot reader) return to discover that home is not casa sweet casa.  Don Montoya is a rich and unscrupulous man who has had Maria's father killed, in order to add his home and land to his holdings.  Montoya has had her house stripped of gold and other valuables so that she can't pay her taxes.  Sounds a bit like Scarlett O'Hara's dilemma when trying to hold onto Tara from the scalawags, doesn't it? 

Wait.  It gets better.  I won't give away much more of the hackneyed plot, except to say that every cliche in the book seems to be contained in this one episode.

You only want to know about the tarot stuff anyway...

Marta lets Maria know that her father has been killed..."People lie...but the cards do not.  They tell me he died at the hands of another."  What cards are these, you ask?  The Six of Cups...which shows "the past lives on."  The King of Cups is next: Daddy has come back from the Land of the Dead; he also returns in a prophetic dream-message to Maria.  The afterlife must not be too much of a social whirl.  The last card represents Maria...and if you haven't guessed by now which card that is, you aren't paying attention.  Hint: think about the title of the television show. 

The Queen of Swords is Maria in her role as the "Avenging Angel."  For you see, her "destiny" is to right wrongs.  On the off chance that you didn't note the title of the episode ("Destiny"), the show ends with Maria acknowledging this.    Twice during the hour-long episode, Maria dons her late mother's black lace shawl as a mask to conceal her identity as she battles Don Montoya and his evil minions.  A lace mantilla is a really effective disguise...not.  Meanwhile, Zorrette leaves the tarot queen as her calling card when she rescues a young boy who is about to play The Hanged One, courtesy of the cruel Don Montoya.

Now I know your other question.  Which tarot deck does Marta use?  From my purview, it looks like a doctored Rider-Waite-Smith.  When Marta turns up the Six of Cups with the classic child scene, I screamed out loud, "That deck wasn't even created until the 1900's, Marta...what kind of gypsy are you?"  She didn't respond.  The Queen of Swords looks like the R-W-S version was tampered with, so that the Queen's hair is long and black...much like Maria's, as a matter of fact.  The backs seem to be navy blue with a fiery crucifix on them.  Not only that, Maria wears a cross nestled at her very exposed throat--I guess these are the studio's attempts to show a heaving bosom and avoid the Fundamentalist Christian boycotts that are bound to ensue.   You know how tarot is one of the Devil's many tools.

I think the real evil is in the banality of the script.  To each, his (or her) own.   

The tarot scene itself is quite scanty, and I don't believe that this show is worth watching for such a pitiful representation.  There's one scene when a Spanish peasant answers, "I know nothing," to Maria's questions about her father's death.  From Gone With the Wind to Colonel Klink, there isn't one thing fresh and new about Queen of Swords--just a mishmash of reheated plots and stock characters.  I would like to say that the acting saved the day, and several of the actors are quite good.  Unfortunately, Tessie Santiago, the spirited Maria, reminds me of Appolonia in Purple Rain.  For those of you who remember that movie, I need say no more. Santiago's hit-and-run accent is particularly awkward.

The show will appear in syndication throughout the country.   For those hungry for a glimpse of tarot on television, your best bet is to find that fabulous episode of My So-Called Life in which Angela is introduced to the tarot.  The deck is the Jungian Tarot (how cool is that?) and the treatment of the cards' purpose is sensitive and funny at the same time.


Review and Page Copyright 2000 Diane Wilkes