Netflix’s first Portuguese series is a must-watch espionage drama

Glória is a slow-burning thriller that offers a nuanced portrayal of Portugal’s experience during the Cold War. The show’s refined storytelling draws you in from the very first episode, leading you through an intricate plot that ultimately proves rewarding. With a bit of fiction thrown in, the series incorporates true events into its storyline and paints a dark picture of Portugal’s era of danger and uncertainty. While the action unfolds in Portugal, the series is really about the rivalry between the Eastern and Western Blocs, led by the two superpowers of the time. With subtlety, the show presents a realistic portrayal of the events, avoiding any sense of far-fetchedness. Additionally, through the character of Carolina, the show offers commentary on the situation of women in the country during that time.

A still from Glória (Image courtesy: Netflix)

The story takes place in the small Portuguese village of Glória, situated not far from the capital city of Lisbon. Joāo Vidal comes from a family with connections to the leaders of the Authoritarian Portuguese regime; his father holds a senior position within the police department, and Joāo himself is an engineer at RARET, a rebroadcasting office of Radio Free Europe that is managed by the Americans. As events unfold, Glória becomes a focal point for both American and Soviet Russian spy agents, each vying for dominance over Europe. Complications arise when it is revealed that Joāo is actually a KGB agent, and RARET itself becomes a den of espionage activities involving both Soviet and American spies.

The series avoids painting either the Americans or the Soviets as villains, instead delving into the complexity of the war, which involves a constant struggle for superiority. What makes this series so captivating is its ability to keep the audience guessing about the direction of the plot until the very last episode, all while maintaining the integrity of the core storyline. Set against the backdrop of a world where there are no clear winners between the capitalist and communist blocs, the series’ screenplay is designed in such a way that viewers do not require extensive background knowledge of the events to fully comprehend and enjoy the show. In fact, the series is self-explanatory, allowing audiences to fully immerse themselves in the storyline without feeling lost or confused.

While the series does an admirable job of maintaining its realism throughout most of its run, it falters somewhat in the final two episodes with the resurrection of one of the main characters. This plot point comes across as more bizarre than shocking. Additionally, the series includes scenes of sexual violence towards women that may make viewers uncomfortable. These scenes feel unnecessary to the overall plot and could have been handled using alternative storytelling devices. However, the world depicted in Glória is undeniably authentic, and the slightly slower pace of the show only adds to its charm, immersing viewers in a world that is a welcome departure from the hectic pace of modern city life.

As you watch the series, you will undoubtedly find yourself questioning how Joao became involved with the KGB. Thankfully, the series answers these questions in a manner reminiscent of peeling back the layers of an onion. Gloria is a world that stands in stark contrast to the worlds inhabited by James Bond and Jason Bourne, where nothing is as it seems and no character can be easily classified as either good or bad. As Netflix’s first Portuguese production, Glória is a hidden gem, boasting an A-grade story and superb production values. The show’s creators are to be commended for their efforts in bringing this captivating series to life, and it is certainly a series that is well worth exploring.


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