Created by Steven Knight and Shawn Levy, ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ is a historical drama miniseries on Netflix set in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. As the Americans drop bombs on Saint-Malo night after night, a young German, Werner, finds comfort in the voice of a blind French girl, Marie-Laure, who broadcasts every night. They’re both looking for hope and find a startling connection between them. It all boils down to their struggle for survival and the need to steer clear of the Nazis, who have unleashed hell in France. SPOILERS AHEAD!
All the Light We Cannot See Recap
‘All the Light We Cannot See’ begins with the US forces bombing Nazi-occupied Saint-Malo in 1944. As everything around her burns, Marie keeps reading a passage from a science fiction novel in braille to send a coded message to the American bombers about locations. In the same town, Werner, a radio transcriber for the Nazis, hears her soothing voice and finds hope. Through flashbacks, we meet young Werner, a radio genius living in an orphanage in Germany with his sister. He is obsessed with the words of a French professor who talks about light and hope; around the same time, young Marie is also hooked on the professor’s teachings. So, when Werner in the present hears Marie’s voice on the same frequency, he feels an instant bond and wants to protect her.
As the teenagers survive, a senior Nazi officer, Reinhold von Rumpel, starts looking for Marie. He knows her father, Daniel, is a museum curator and has left the most precious diamond in the world, the Sea of Flames, with her. Legend says it can cure any illness, but it also harms the loved ones of anyone who touches it. After no response from the locals, he finally learns about a place outdoors where he can find Marie and manhandles her to find the location of the diamond. Marie knows the stone can’t fall into the wrong hands and skillfully frees herself from his grasp and runs away.
When Werner is younger, his expertise with the radio reaches the Nazis, who pull him away from his sister and throw him into a draconian school, where he runs around and fights to survive. He manages to graduate at the top of his class, but only with the hope that he’ll meet his sister again. In the present, his superior threatens to kill his sister if he doesn’t lead them to Marie. Hating himself but knowing he has no choice, Werner finally leads them to Marie’s house. Before they can enter, Etienne guns them down but doesn’t harm Werner, who seems pissed with his own superiors.
The house Marie stays in belongs to her great Uncle Etienne, who is also the professor, and his sister Madame Manec. They are part of the French Resistance, but Manec dies just when the Americans are about to come to free them. Before this, Marie was also separated from her father a few days before she started broadcasting. Daniel goes to Paris to protect Marie and throw the Nazis off her trail since they were looking for him and his blind daughter because of the stone. In Etienne’s custody, Werner realizes he is the professor, which warms Etienne towards him. But the Resistance knows how much Werner has helped the Nazis and wants him dead. Towards the end, while Etienne dies trying to save Werner, Reinhold closes in on Marie’s house.
All the Light We Cannot See Ending: Why Does Marie Throw the Sea of Flames Into the Ocean?
The Sea of Flames is the most precious stone in France, which the Nazis are trying to take to Germany. As a protector of the stones, Daniel is responsible for making sure it doesn’t reach them, and his whole life goes into this. As a rational man, he claims not to believe in the legend of the stone, but when he holds it in his hand on several occasions, there’s a sadness in him, as if he feels responsible for making Marie blind at the age of six in his curiosity to touch the stone.
Reinhold, on the other hand, is required to acquire that stone for Hitler, but he is driven by a personal motive. He is suffering from an incurable disease and feels that only possessing the stone can help him get rid of it. This is why he’s desperately looking around for Marie and even kills Daniel in Paris. He knows how much Daniel loves his daughter and that she’s the only one he would trust with such a precious object. Reinhold does get hold of Marie in the beginning, but she claims not to know about the diamond’s location, which is probably true because she seems surprised at the end when Werner finds it next to Reinhold.
Even if it is not explicitly mentioned, Marie has known about the stone from her father for a long time and also probably knows that the only way to get rid of the curse is to throw it back into the ocean from where it originated. In the end, Marie knows she has lost her entire family and everyone she loved in this war who was trying to protect the stone. While she knows it can’t come into German hands, who might misuse it, she also surely feels the stone has done enough damage to everyone around her. This is why, in the end, Marie knows she needs to end the curse and carefully takes it to throw it in the ocean without touching it. After it’s gone, in a way, she feels free but also empty since she lost her loving father and her whole life to the stone.
Do Marie and Werner End Up Together?
From their childhood, even if Marie and Werner never met, they had something in common – the professor. As Marie was a blind girl trying to figure out her way in life, everything seemed dark to her, except when she heard the professor on the radio discussing the importance of light, the kind of light that doesn’t have to be visible with eyes. For Werner, a German orphan with no family except his sister, the professor’s voice became a guiding light, too, so much that he kept thinking of him as a father he never had. The professor came into both their lives when they needed hope, and way into their teenage years, they still held on to that hope to survive the war.
Fortunately for Marie, the professor turns out to be her own great-uncle, Etienne. This is why even if Nazis have occupied France, Marie feels at home in Saint-Malo with her uncle, the professor, who feels very familiar to her. Similarly, when things seem to get darker in Werner’s life, he always turns to the same frequency where the professor used to teach. In Saint-Malo, he listens to Marie on it, who is using the same radio Etienne did, and even if he doesn’t know her, he instantly feels a collection and finds hope in her voice. Werner also meets Etienne right outside Marie’s house when he’s only too glad to be rid of his Nazi superior, who was threatening to kill Marie. It takes some time since Werner’s hearing isn’t as polished as Marie’s, but he knows from Etienne’s voice that he is, in fact, the professor he feels like he has known all his life.
Before dying, when Etienne asks Werner to protect Marie, he knows it’s the right thing to do since he already feels a connection with her. With Reinhold close to killing Marie, Werner reaches just in time and mentions the professor to let her know he is an ally. They eventually get rid of Reinhold, and when the American attack is over, they get to discuss their special connection and the respect they share for Etienne and whatever he taught them while posing as the professor. This is the first time Marie hears of Werner, but he has been listening to her on the broadcast all along and has developed a curiosity about her voice.
When everything else is lost, Marie and Werner dance together to the song the professor used to play when they were kids. She even kisses him, and they share a beautiful moment, but they know they can’t be together forever. With a promise to Marie that he will meet her on the same frequency, Werner surrenders to the American forces. He knows he will come to her if she ever needs him and that surrendering to the Americans will give him a chance at a new and better life and a way to reach back to his sister. So, towards the end of the series, they go their separate ways, but not without creating a memory to hold onto.
After witnessing Marie and Werner’s tumultuous journeys, the viewer is bound to hope for a happy ending for them. We wish for them to be reunited and live happily ever after. The show leaves their future in uncertainty, but the book on which the show is based presents a concrete fate, and it is not the happy ending you might have hoped for. In the book, Werner surrenders to the Americans and falls severely ill while in prison. One night, he deliriously walks out of the hospital where he is being treated but steps on a landmine and dies. Marie, on the other hand, goes on to live a full-life and works at the museum, where her father used to work too. She is reunited with Werner in a way when his sister, Jutta, meets Marie. The final scene in the book has Marie walking the streets of Paris with her grandchild.
How does Reinhold von Rumpel Die?
Reinhold von Rumpel was diagnosed with an incurable disease in 1941, after which, being a specialist in stones, he started searching for Sea of Flames. Three years later, when Saint-Malo is getting bombed by the Americans, he manages to survive and is desperate to find Marie. Since he has already killed Daniel during an interrogation in Paris after torturing him, he knows only the stone can help cure him. It seems strange that even if there’s death all around him and almost every area of the city is bombed, Reinhold is still obsessed with the stone that can save his life. He believes the stone will grant him immortality.
After unsuccessful attempts with uncooperative locals, he finally gets Marie’s address from a French woman, who is willing to share it for the right price. As he closes in on Marie and informs her that her father is dead, Marie is broken but hell-bent on completing their mission. She knows her father lives on in her and that even if her life is in danger, she needs to make sure the stone doesn’t reach Reinhold. After he blasts her door to get close to her, Werner reaches her just in time and tries to save her. This distracts Reinhold from Marie since he goes after Werner to kill him.
With constant warnings from Marie, who knows the sound of each step by heart, Werner learns he only has a few seconds before he can use his best friend, the wires, against Reinhold to choke him when he reaches close. Reinhold has a gun he keeps shooting randomly, but Werner manages to keep him distracted. This gives enough time to Marie to come down with her own gun to shoot Reinhold. It’s just bad timing for Reinhold since he finally spots the stone hidden in Daniel’s model, but his bullets run out. Marie, who clearly can’t see but is very good with voices, knows exactly where to shoot and successfully kills Reinhold. He ironically takes his last breath just inches away from the stone he never got to possess.