The cartoonish expression of Kleo Straub is what sets her apart from everybody else. She is the personification of the fear that the Cold War caused around the world. When Kleo was groomed to be a state security agent for the GDR, she dedicated her life to the socialist cause. She executed enemies without questioning the greater purpose of the missions. Her life was rather simple, apart from the fact that she was a deadly assassin. She was in love with Andi, her senior and handler, and was expecting to give birth to their child. She had decided to leave the agent life behind and start afresh now that she would be a mother. Her simplistic world soon collapsed, and she was exposed to the dirty games played by her seniors and leaders. She struggled to adjust to the idea that the greater cause she had always been fighting for had never truly existed, making her question the purpose of her life. After the fall of the Berlin wall, all political prisoners were set free, including Kleo. Her purpose in life was now to find the truth behind her imprisonment and seek revenge from all those who wronged her.
Kleo Straub was groomed by her grandfather, Colonel-General Otto Straub as she was taken away from her mother at a very young age. Her grandfather made her believe that her mother had joined the bad people who lived in West Germany. She betrayed Kleo and the German Democratic Republic. While Kleo trusted her grandpa, she had a special place in her heart for her mother. When Otto noticed that Kleo was struggling to cope with the absence of her mother, he informed her that her mother had died in West Germany. After Otto became Kleo’s sole guardian, he trained her to be an agent. She only had one purpose in life: to dedicate her life to socialism. Her grandfather and the wife of the President of the State Council, Margot Honecker, looked down upon Kleo’s friendship with an ordinary boy named Holger. Otto advised Kleo to keep the boy away from her life since he could not be trusted to be around them. Even though Kleo loved her grandfather, she could not end her friendship with Holger, and they grew up to pledge their loyalty to peace and socialism as members of the Free German Youth.
Kleo was in love with her childhood best friend, but her grandfather refused to allow her to indulge in romance. He shamed her for fooling around with an ordinary boy and added that he, along with his entire family, had applied for exit visas. Implying that he was a traitor to the nation, and Kleo must not develop any feelings for him. Otto introduced Kleo Straub to Jorge, a comrade from Chile, and asked her to show him around. It was his way of guiding her to choose men whom he would approve of. Kleo was desperate to win the affection of her grandfather. When he was unimpressed by her grades, she assassinated a right-wing man to prove her worth. She wanted to be appreciated by him, and with every unofficial mission, she felt closer to achieving it. Her formative years were spent in rigorous training that taught her to let go of her interests and devote herself to the cause of the State. She was used by her grandfather and the Ministry of State Security to execute enemies outside the GDR. She risked her life for missions that were never official, and her post was secretive as well, which was why when they realized that Kleo might have been recognized by the West, they imprisoned her for a false charge and denied any association with her. Kleo was made the scapegoat to protect the secrets of the leader.
Kleo’s world revolved around her grandfather and the state, but after her imprisonment, she realized that the people she trusted the most did nothing to save her life. Her dream of starting a family was also shattered when her prison mates punched her in the abdomen. She woke up in an isolated room and realized that she had lost her baby. She sat in the pool of blood, crying in despair. Her only chance of having someone she could truly call her own and love unconditionally was taken away from her. After losing her baby, she only cared for revenge. She could never forgive the ones responsible for her condition. Kleo’s greater purpose of serving her state was now replaced by vengeance. After the fall of the Berlin wall, when the entire country was in disarray, Kleo left the prison to avenge her loss. She embarked on a journey in which she would meet dead ends and run in circles to find out the cause of her imprisonment. I could not help but compare Kleo with Lola from “Run Lola Run,” considering how both the series and film capture the anxiousness of youth as a result of the time. The character of Kleo is an amalgamation of several iconic women, such as Uma Thurman’s The Bride from “Kill Bill” and, of course, Jodie Comer’s Villanelle from “Killing Eve.” The yellow and black outfit that Kleo wore when she tackled the double agent, Anne Geike, was reminiscent of Thurman in “Kill Bill.”
Even though Kleo Straub believed that only vengeance could ease her trauma, the closer she was to the truth, the more unsettled she felt. The dream of the nation, the affection of her grandpa, and everything that Kleo yearned for turned out to be meaningless. She was taught about class enemies, yet now companies in the GDR were being sold to the capitalists by her seniors, who were making a profit out of the political turmoil. She always identified Americans as the enemies of the state, yet the President of the Social Council had a pact with the President of the United States. The Honecker-Raegan pact was straight out of a socialist nightmare, yet she was living it. Ultimately, when she was given a choice to choose between getting the address of her mother or keeping the suitcase, she chose the former. After all these years, she finally prioritized her interests, an important lesson to survive in today’s capitalist society. Even though her meeting with her mother was not fruitful, she was glad to see her. She perhaps had hoped to reunite with her mother. She wanted someone to take care of her, as she had always struggled to live alone. She needed someone constant, but everyone she knew left her. She was aimless and defeated after knowing what the red suitcase consisted of. The changing society and the truth made Kleo feel out of place. She regretted not keeping the suitcase at the end of the day, but her friend/colleague/lover Sven went against her wish. He had informed the BND about the suitcase, though he was also played by his senior Min, who handed the suitcase to the United States.
Ultimately, the entire system was working for their commission. The ones who believed in a socialist society were now left without a purpose as the world around them collapsed. Min was right to state that “when the snipe and the clam grapple, it’s the fisherman who benefits.” She barely had to get her hands dirty, but she managed to enjoy the fruit of Sven and Kleo’s labor. After knowing that Sven had handed the suitcase to BND, Kleo Straub was disappointed. She scared Sven out of her house since she still considered the West her enemy. She had lost her love, her family, and her purpose, all she was left with was loneliness and a struggle to adapt to a world she had despised all her life. We can imagine Kleo alone in her grandpa’s house, searching for a greater meaning in her life, or letting the past consume her since that was all that she knew.
See More: ‘Kleo’ Ending, Explained: What Was In The Red Suitcase? What Happened To Uwe Mittig And Sven?