Netflix keeps betting on international offerings to make its library way stronger than it is. In this opportunity, it is time to review, Kleo, a new German series that sets its story in the time pre- and post-Cold War. A time when Germany was divided in two, and where spies and assassins had a lot of work to do every single week. Germany has proven before that they excel when it comes to producing great thrillers with lots of tension and mystery. Kleo hopes to achieve those highs and become a memorable series in audiences’ minds.
Deutschland 83 and its sequels are the standards of what a great spy-thriller looks like. It is true that Kleo cannot reach those heights, but it does a great job of creating a series that delivers an interesting story, in a very particular period of time. It also manages to take us on a journey with a character that is not only likable but also deep and frightening at the same time. On top of that, it also knows how to use humor and style to create a contrast so that the darkest parts of the story can have the proper weight they deserve.
Kleo is a Netflix TV series created by Hanno Hackfort, Richard Kropf, and Bob Konrad. The creators have a ton of experience in the TV environment, and they have chosen to adapt a true story into something a bit more stylized with a lot more drama and personality. Kleo is definitely not your typical “based on a true story” type of show. The series stars Jella Haase, Dimitrij Schaad, Julius Feldmeier, and Vladimir Burlakov.
The show tells us the story of Kleo, a secret agent for the Democratic Republic of Germany during the Cold War. In 1987, Kleo finishes a mission successfully, and she returns home to East Germany. However, unexpectedly, she is arrested for treason. Three years later, as the Cold War ended, she is released from prison and the first thing she wants to do is ask why. Why was she betrayed in such a manner.
The first thing one can say about Kleo, is that the show has a lot of styles. There is definitely a lot of Tarantino’s influence in here, and at some moments, the journey for revenge that Kleo goes on feels very much in line with the one The Bride traveled on during the Kill Bill movies. There are differences, of course. Kleo isn’t half as violent as Kill Bill; there is a lot less of the fantastic Tarantino dialogue, and yet, you can feel that one could not exist without the other.
The series is a fantastic example of production design, as the production was able to transport us to that time at the beginning of the 90s when everything changed for Germany. It is a period in time that isn’t always visited, that limbo that existed from the moment the Iron Curtain fell, to the moment when Germany rose up as a new European superpower. Just for that, Kleo deserves a watch. Producers should really take into consideration visiting time periods that have been neglected. There is enough World War II material out there.
The series isn’t only well produced from a visual standpoint, but it also manages to gather a great crew of actors. Jella Haase, who plays Kleo is the breakthrough discovery of the show. The actress is able to traverse the entire spectrum of emotions in a single scene and make it believable. Haase is as strong an actor as they come, and it is really quite a marvel to see her at work. She builds Kleo into this complex killing machine in search of revenge and so much more. Without Haase, the series would not be as good as it is.
The writing is also quite solid. The writers take the time to develop the characters throughout the season, and you really get to know them by the end. Which is great. More TV shows and movies should realize that getting to know the characters is the first step to learning to love them or hate them, and wanting to keep experiencing their stories or not. However, if there is something that could hurt the show, and it is, one of the biggest hurdles of the season is the pacing.
Kleo is gripping and exciting, but sometimes it is also very slow. Especially towards the middle of the season, things become quite slow, and throughout the entire season, there are a couple of scenes here and there that feel completely unnecessary or repetitive. Sometimes the point can be made with one or two scenes. More than that, it can feel as if the writers don’t have enough confidence in their story, and they need to patch it up constantly.
Kleo proves that Germany can create excellent shows. Netflix is already making us wait for the next show from the creators of Dark, another German show, but Kleo is good enough to make that wait feel more bearable. The series boasts amazing production design and fantastic performances. Kleo herself is an exceptional character, and while the season might feel too long at times, it isn’t an issue big enough to make the series fall into OK territory. This here is astounding.