Netflix’s war drama miniseries, ‘All the Light We Cannot See,’ follows the journeys of two teenagers stuck in war-torn Saint-Malo. During World War II in Nazi-occupied France, the American air force in the show is bombing the entire area every single day, and among those trapped include a German soldier working as a radio operator for the Nazis, Werner Pfennig, and a blind girl who is part of the French Resistance against the Nazis, Marie-Laure LeBlanc. Unaware of each other’s existence, they listen to the same “professor” while growing up on the radio, which gives them hope.
Based on a 2014 historical fiction war novel by Anthony Doerr, the show gives emphasis to the connection between Marie and Werner, two people on opposite sides of the war who dare to dream of better days and hope for some light beyond all the darkness they witness. While adapting any novel for screens like this one, visual elements of the story are given more emphasis, and more often than not, creative liberties are taken to tell the story in a different way. Readers of the novel must be curious to know what happens to the central character of Werner at the end of the series. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Werner Gets a Different Kind of Ending
In the series and the book, Werner and Marie don’t meet till the very end, even if Werner knows about Marie after hearing her broadcast. In the book, Werner still gets a good look at her before finally meeting her, which is different from what happens in the series since Werner and Marie meet for the first time after Etienne dies in the series and asks Werner to save Marie. In the novel, however, Etienne doesn’t die and is reunited with Marie later when things are better. But in the novel, Werner kills Reinhold von Rumpel, and Marie hears the gunshot. This scene was reversed in the series, where Marie kills von Rumpel instead with a gun, even if Werner attempts to kill him first after Etienne has already died.
The moment Marie and Werner meet is still similar in both storylines since Werner introduces himself to Marie as someone who has heard the professor’s broadcasts like her and knows about her connection to the professor. While in the novel, Werner offers to help Marie get out of the town safely amid the ceasefire, even if he wants to spend more time with her, in the series, Marie suggests that Werner should surrender to the American army, who will take care of him and provide supplies and a way for him to reach his sister Jutta again. In the novel, Marie and Werner head out together but part ways soon because Werner knows she shouldn’t be spotted with a German soldier. Marie is then united with Etienne again while Werner tries to flee from the town.
After they part ways in the novel, Werner is arrested as part of the German army, even if he has resisted them throughout and helped protect Marie in a way. This brings an end to his attempts to flee and in the prison, a worse fate awaits him. He suffers from delusions and a deteriorating health condition, but what eventually kills him in the novel in 1944 is a landmine. He reaches the landmine from his hospital tent because his delusions are getting worse, which shows how his life got a lot worse after he got separated from Marie, and without any hope and no comforting voice of Marie in his ears, he eventually falls into the trap and dies.
In the series, however, this part of the novel is not addressed much. The series ends with Marie and Werner parting ways, with Werner promising to meet her on shortwave 13.10, the same frequency where they heard the professor when they were young and the one Marie now has access to. He promises to come to her if she ever needs his help since he will be listening to it. But after this point, they part ways and not much is shown about what happens to Werner. So, as far as the series is concerned, Werner does not die at the end, but his fate is uncertain and unknown.