Glória is a Portuguese cold-war spy series on Netflix that is based on true events. There is a small town in Portugal, called Gloria de Ribatejo, that happens to be perfectly situated for Radio Free Europe to broadcast anti-Soviet propaganda into Eastern Bloc countries. It’s 1968, and João Vidal (Miguel Nunes), the son of Portugal’s Secretary of State, has just taken a job as an engineer at radio station RARET, the Radio Free Europe station. We soon discover that João is a spy for the KGB, which puts him directly at odds with his father and his country, which is run by the conservative and nationalist authoritarian António de Oliveira Salazar. Turns out that in this tiny dusty town, almost everyone is a spy for someone, whether it’s PIDE (the Portuguese secret police), the CIA, or the KGB. So, it’s spy-vs-spy, and you can’t trust anyone. Glória will remind you of other period spy series, such as The Same Sky or The Sleepers.
Radio Free Europe
Radio Free Europe (RFE) was created in 1950 by the United States to broadcast news and political commentary into communist countries where there was no free press. It’s a lofty mission, but the U.S. had its own motives. Radio Free Europe is largely credited with contributing to the fall of communism in the Eastern Bloc of European countries. The CIA secretly funded RFE until 1971. How it worked is RFE would build or use radio stations near the borders of communist countries. The first such station was in Munich, broadcasting to Czechoslovakia. The Soviets spent a lot of time and effort jamming RFE broadcasts, so there was a constant need for RFE engineers to find workarounds. A lot of spy craft surrounded RFE, and there was always an element of danger in working for them. Nowadays, RFE still exists, and is a legitimate station in some communist countries. Its efforts at propaganda are more directed toward the middle east.
Our Take on Glória
I can’t say much about Glória because it’s so plot-driven that it’s hard not to reveal spoilers. But what I can say is that it’s an excellent history lesson in a stylish package. I don’t think I’m just speaking for myself when I say that Portugal’s role in the Cold War is largely overlooked by Americans. Most of us are familiar with the intrigue between East and West Germany, but I didn’t know anything about RARET. There are a few things that make Glória unique among Cold War dramas: the location, which is tiny and rural, and the political subplots about Salazar’s nationalism and the war in Angola, a Portuguese colony in southern Africa that is in full rebellion. I had to do a lot of Googling to understand everything that is referred to in this series. Like a typical spy series, Glória includes a lot of gasp-inducing moments when you realize who is actually working for whom. I liked it a lot, and if you liked The Bureau, you will like Glória.
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