Before opening on a shot of an alley not far from the Berlin Wall (circa East Berlin, 1987), a title card for the Netflix German-language spy series Kleo greets us with a bit of insouciance.
“This is a true story.”
“None of this ever happened.”
With that bit of introductory mischief out of the way, we’re quickly thrown right into what at least from the get-go looks like the classic sort of skullduggery associated with espionage. Kleo — an East German spy — grabs a wig, slides into a dress, and sneaks into West Berlin. Inside a club called Big Eden, she shares some deadly blow with a businessman. Perhaps distracted by the angel-faced young woman, he happily snorts it and soon enough dies right there on the bathroom floor, gasping for breath.
Kleo is now streaming on Netflix
Mission accomplished. Soon after, though, Kleo is rounded up, betrayed by her grandfather, convicted of espionage, and thrown into prison. All within the first few minutes of this show — which, by the way, wasted no time in filling the Killing Eve– and Americans-sized hole in my heart.
The streamer’s official summary for this series picks up the thread from there.
“After two years in prison, the Berlin Wall suddenly falls and Kleo is released. But she soon realizes that the conspiracy against her is much more complicated than she thought, and that an ominous red suitcase is the key to it all. Kleo thus embarks on a revenge spree that leads her through the anarchic Berlin, improvised electro clubs and Mallorcan fincas all the way to Chile’s Atacama Desert.”
All the while, a West Berlin policeman named Sven is hot on Kleo’s trail. Convinced he’s closing in on the case of a lifetime.
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Honestly, the thing I think I appreciate more than anything about Kleo is that it doesn’t have any pretensions of being something other than an 8-episode romp of a spy drama. Kleo is so adept at killing people, and looking beatific while doing so, that you can see traces of Killing Eve’s Villanelle. There’s also a stylish, menacing The Americans vibe to the 80s-era narrative.
My verdict: This series is slick and addicting right from the start. It’s a must-watch if you’re a fan of the genre. This is the spy show, by the way, that Netflix’s In From the Cold wishes it could have been.
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