Set in the late 1960s, the Netflix series “Gloria” outlines the politics of Portugal during the Cold War. At the center of the conflict is a young Portuguese engineer, João Vidal. Vidal served in the army for 2 years, fighting the Portuguese Colonial War in Angola. However, the futile war influences his political ideology and returns to Portugal as a changed man. Vidal becomes a KGB spy and conducts espionage missions from a radio station, RARET, run by the American government in Glória do Ribatejo.
Created by Pedro Lopes, Gloria is filled with sharp twists and turns that keep the audience hooked. Vidal is a layered protagonist who refuses to take sides. While his profession demands blood, Vidal tries to keep his hands clean. His conscious righteousness becomes a significant hurdle in his path. Amidst Vidal’s internal conflicts, there are a plethora of external forces trying to grasp power. Let’s explore the curious case of João Vidal.
‘Gloria’ Plot Summary
At the height of the Cold War, Engineer João Vidal arrives in Glória do Ribatejo to take over his new job as the technical antenna coordinator at RARET. It is an American broadcasting station set up to receive transmission between America and its allies (agents and embassies) positioned in the Eastern Bloc. Portugal is at the proper distance to receive shortwave transmissions from eastern countries. Hence, the US established RARET in Glória using its diplomatic relations with the Portuguese government. The President of the council, Professor Oliveira Salazar, wants to curb Portugal’s growing anti-colonist and communist ideologies, and he couldn’t have found a better ally than the West.
Vidal’s father, Henrique, is a minister in the Portuguese government and has anti-communist sentiments. Yet Vidal became a Russian KGB spy. A secret agent, Alexandre Petrovasky, meets Vidal in Glória and assigns him his first espionage mission: to sabotage an interview broadcast by Boris Barkow. Boris is a Russian general who turned against the regime. In his interview, he appeals to his fellow countrymen to not invade Czechoslovakia. Vidal enchants a telegraphist, Ursula, and replaces Boris Barlow’s tape before the broadcast. Due to the sabotage, Russian troops from the Warsaw Pact invades the Czech Republic and captured Prague.
Vidal conducts several espionage missions to sabotage the efforts of the American government to overpower Russia in the Cold War. In between his pursuit, he consistently inquires about a former telegraphist, Mia Orlov, who suddenly disappeared from RARET.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Who was Mia Orlov?
As soon as Vidal came to RARET, he conducted a search for Mia Orlov. He told his colleagues that he met Mia in college through a friend. He investigated Goncalo (a friend and colleague in RARET) and found photos of Mia and Goncalo in his cabin. In the pictures, Mia and Goncalo celebrated July 4th together, and Vidal suspected that the two were romantically involved. When Vidal threatened Goncalo, he confessed that Mia helped him to get over his morphine addiction. Goncalo even informed Vidal about Mia’s house close to the dam in Magos, where they often partied.
Soon, Mia’s corpse was recovered from the water near the Magos dam. While in the autopsy report, Doctor Miguel concluded that Mia died from an accident. He later revealed that she was hit by a flat object and was murdered. CIA security agent, Bill, discovered that Miguel had a collection of obscene photographs of women, and Mia saw him clicking those pictures. Bill accused Miguel of killing Mia. Miguel revealed that Mia blackmailed him into poisoning RARET’s head, James Wilson, and CIA agent Anne O’Brien, who lived as husband and wife in Gloria.
At the beginning of the series, when Vidal arrived in Gloria, a communist sympathizer, Quim, gave him a picture of Mia. Vidal smirked at the photograph and burnt it in his apartment. Through a flashback, it was established that Mia Orlov was a Russian agent who recruited Vidal. While Vidal told his colleagues at RARET that he was romantically involved with Mia, in the flashbacks, they shared a professional relationship. The mystery about their relationship was kept secret until the end.
Who killed Mia Orlov?
Vidal teamed up with Alexandre to find Mia’s killer and complete her unfinished business, i.e., kill American agents James Wilson and Anne O’Brien.
Vidal conducted an investigation to find out Mia’s killer. The fisherman who extracted Mia’s body from the water told Vidal that they found a ring in her hand that suggested that she was either married or engaged. A bewildered Vidal got the ring from Doctor Miguel. The ring was engraved with the date July 4th, 1968. Vidal believed Mia got engaged on this particular date.
Vidal and Alexandre suspected Dr. Miguel killed Mia because she knew his secret. Though Miguel denied the accusations, Alexandre got him killed.
Later, Vidal found that Mia was suffering from depression and believed she could have committed suicide. He visited the only psychiatrist, Dr. Silveira, in Gloria to find out more. Vidal didn’t find any medic records on Mia. However, he discovered a cassette of consultation that belonged to Sophia Ayres, wife of Ramiro, technical director at RARET.
Sophia told Silveira that she was in love with a woman named Mia. Mia gave Sophia a necklace that he held dearly throughout the series. To understand the mystery of Mia’s death, Vidal called Sophia to Mia’s old house. Sophia revealed to Vadil that she knew Mia was a Russian agent, and the two had planned to disappear to spend life together in Hungary. However, Mia didn’t show up on the day of their departure, and Sophia believed she had abandoned her.
Vidal suspected Sophia’s husband, Ramiro, of killing Mia, but he had a strong alibi. During the time of Mia’s disappearance, Ramiro was in Germany for training. But Engineer Parker from Germany informed Vidal that Ramiro came two days late. Vidal finally concluded that it was Ramiro who killed Mia. Sophia tried to run away from Gloria, but Vidal abducted her.
Vidal brought Ramiro to Mia’s house, and on the way, Ramiro told Vidal that he knew about Sophia and Mia’s relationship. Sophia was going to leave him, and thus in a brawl, Ramiro hit Mia on her head with a plate at Mia’s house. Sophia knew about Mia’s death and Ramiro killing her, yet she protected her abusive husband.
In the end, Vidal killed both Sophia and Ramiro. He placed the gun in Ramiro’s hand to make it look like Ramiro shot his wife and then killed himself in grief. Vidal revealed to Alexandre that Mia’s death wasn’t political but an ordinary crime of passion committed by Ramiro.
‘Gloria’ Ending Explained – Why did Vidal become a KGB Agent?
After Mia’s killers were killed, Alexandre asked Vidal to continue their plan and explode RARET. He wanted Salazar to close down the radio station and put an end to Americans in the region. However, Vidal didn’t want to kill any more people and thus suggested Alexandre to explode the antennas instead. Vidal’s suggestion was rejected as the KGB was more interested in blood than sending a message.
In an earlier scene, PIDE dismantled a communist cell, and found out about an attack on RARET. Following the lead, PIDE cornered two communist RARET employees, Roberto and Ermelinda, carrying explosives. However, someone triggered the bomb and the agents were killed in an explosion. Vidal discovered that the car explosion was a distraction. The explosives were activated by a device that wasn’t found near the crime scene. Vidal surmised that the mastermind behind the car explosion was Alexandre, who had a sinister motive in mind.
Vidal connected the dots and surmised that the KGB wanted to kill CIA agents James and Anne. He found an explosive hidden under James’ car engine that was probably planted by the KGB. Vidal removed the bomb and took it to his apartment. He re-armed the bomb above the main electrical panel at RARET so that the explosive wouldn’t harm anyone.
After the explosion, Vidal met Mia at the old tower and said, “We can go now.” Vidal didn’t come to Gloria for the KGB, but he wanted to rescue Mia from the KGB. Vidal was never interested in politics or the cold war. He started working in RARET and got mixed with KGB, CIA and PIDE, to convince the agencies that KGB spy Mia Orlov was dead.
Was Mia alive?
Alexandre explained to Vidal that almost everything we do in life is motivated by passion. In a flashback, Mia asked Vidal why he wanted to become a KGB agent and infiltrate RARET. She wondered whether it was about extortion or conviction. Vidal didn’t answer, but in the end, it was duly explained that Vidal became a KGB agent out of passion. Not a patriotic passion, but a passion for love.
Vidal’s outrageous behavior and obsession with finding Mia’s killer established the fact that he loved her passionately. He didn’t involve himself in the politics of the land and concentrated solely on finding Mia’s killer. Vidal came to Gloria to prove to the Americans, Russians, and Portuguese that Mia was dead. After killing Mia’s killers, he convinced Alexandre to end the hunt for Mia.
Mia’s corpse was never revealed to the audience. Miguel confirmed that the corpse belonged to Mia based on her age, stature, clothes, and watch. Mia didn’t have any relatives, and thus, the CIA had to believe Miguel’s judgment.
After the KGB and CIA believed Mia was dead, Vidal created his own escape. Goncalo informed Vidal’s father, Henrique, that Vidal was a Russian Spy. To save his son, Henrique falsely accused Goncalo of being a KGB spy, and PIDE arrested him. Henrique arranged an escape route for Vidal and handed him tickets to Brazil. He suggested that Vidal create a story or accident that would make the KGB believe he was dead. Probably, the RARET explosion was the story. The two lovers erased their identity to start a new life together in Brazil. It was the plan all along, Vidal’s crime of passion.
Gloria is a 2021 Portuguese Political Thriller series created by Pedro Lopes. It is streaming on Netflix.