For individuals who enjoy historical fiction and poignant stories, All the Light We Cannot See is the ideal read. The Netflix series premiered in November 2023 and is based on Anthony Doerr’s best-selling book from 2014, which told the actual account of the Battle of Saint-Malo and told a lovely narrative set in World War II during France’s liberation from Nazi domination. However, the book has a deeper significance, and the conclusion of the series shows a crucial departure from the original narrative. Will Werner and Marie cross paths again? Let’s find out.
In All the Light We Cannot See, two young individuals who meet in a Nazi-occupied French city during World War II are told their story: Werner and Marie are members of two opposing groups: the blind girl assisting the Resistance, and the Nazi soldier. But since they both have decent hearts, they are able to see the horrors of war, and this helps them bond from the first minute they meet.
Werner is a bright German orphan who was forced to enlist in the army as a boy after being abducted by the Nazis in order to assist them use his radio skills. Although he is compelled to participate in the Second World War using his special abilities, the battle does not alter his conviction that war is a ridiculous construct of “old men” that only results in mindless devastation. A few years before the Nazi invasion, his delicate heart would virtually connect with a girl he hears on the radio on the same frequency as a French professor delivering his message of science and reason.
Marie, a young woman who lost her father in the resistance struggle, is the girl on the radio. The professor is her uncle Etienne, who Marie resides with and who she progressively assists in breaking Etienne’s seclusion. Their combined efforts will benefit the French Resistance, and Marie’s broadcasts will contain crucial code that the US army will use to launch strikes.
In the “The Light We Cannot See” Netflix episode, Werner is shown rescuing Marie from Von Ruppel’s dark schemes. As the US army moves into the city, Werner and Marie make plans to reunite after the war. After Werner submits to the Americans, Marie casts the sea of fire into the ocean, lifting the curse. All the Light We Cannot See’s conclusion, however, highlights the key distinction between the novel’s events and the episodes: will Werner and Marie actually cross paths again?
In the book All the Light We Cannot See, Werner falls ill after turning himself in to the Americans. One night, he stumbles out of his tent in a daze, and a German landmine explodes, killing him. This is a more devastating book ending than the Netflix adaptation. Because he was a soldier and didn’t support the war he was fighting, Werner’s death in the novel serves as a powerful metaphor for how war indiscriminately destroys everything. No one is rewarded for good deeds, no one is punished for wicked deeds—a conflict kills people without difference or lesson to be learned.
This means that Werner and Marie will never meet again in the book All The Light We Cannot See: the novel’s ending will continue until, thirty years later, Werner’s sister Jutta goes to France and meets Marie. They’ve been both missing Werner for years, as one of the many victims of a meaningless war.