Netflix’s All the Light We Cannot See is finally here, and it’s unfortunate that we have to say it’s quite a disappointment. Still, there are some good things about the series that drag us towards it, like the actors who play the important characters that drive this simple story forward through a non-linear lens. Amongst them all, the first episode is where the most happens, and it does feel a little bit all over the place because it takes quite a bit of time to set things into motion—way too much time for a series with only 4 episodes. The story begins in Nazi-occupied St. Malo. In August 1944, the Americans are dropping bombs on the little seaside town, and Marie is sending a message to her dear Papa and Uncle Etienne. She’s been alone for a very long time, and she’s requesting that they return home to her. Even when a bomb lands at her doorstep and pushes her off her seat, she gets back up and continues her broadcast. This time it’s for anyone who is listening: a reading of the book 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. Marie is blind and reads a braille version of the book gifted to her by her father in Paris.
What Happens In The Episode?
On the other hand, listening to the broadcast is a young Nazi soldier, Werner. He’s with one other fellow soldier who is preparing for his last goodbye with a drink. Even with all the bombings, Werner manages to survive, becoming the sole survivor of his radio unit. In a small eatery in the town, Sergeant Major Rumpel is on the hunt for a blind girl named Marie. It seems the Americans are very close, but the Germans have locked the city gates to make sure no townspeople can’t escape the bombs. Rumpel asks the restaurant owner for answers about Marie, and when he refuses to give any, Rumpel shoots him in the head. The man is clearly desperate to find Marie, but for what we do not yet know.
Who Is Marie’s Father?
When Marie was young, she lived in Paris with her father, Daniel LeBlanc, a man who worked at the National History Museum. Even though Marie was born blind, Daniel never let her feel in the dark and even built her a wooden map of the city to show her how to get around and find her way home. On one of her birthdays, Daniel takes Marie to the museum and gives her a feel for everything in there. At the end of the tour, they sit down to feel some precious stones, but one particular stone is missing— the most valuable one of the lot, known as the “Sea of Flames.” The story goes—the stone itself is cursed, and anyone who touches the stone is also cursed, it also says that anyone who possesses it will be immortal, but all their loved ones will suffer grave misfortune. Marie is curious to know if Daniel’s ever touched it himself, but he doesn’t answer her question, making it clear that he has and worries his daughter is blind because of it.
In 1944, Marie goes to the local bakery to see if there’s food and is overjoyed to be greeted by her uncle Etienne. Her words “break bread” in the broadcast were a hint of where they could meet.
Etienne tells Marie that he’s been doing some important work for, well, freedom, and he reminds her that she should continue reading from the book every night. Marie has been reading code, and he tells her some new chapters to pick, telling her there are going to be more raids the same night. The baker tells Marie about the guy searching for her, but nobody knows the reason for it.
Werner looks for wires to fix his radio and gets caught by a senior officer, who reminds him that looting is a crime. Werner explains the situation, and the officer’s attention is piqued when he realizes who Werner is.
What Was Werner’s Childhood Like?
Werner and his sister Jutta grew up in an orphanage, where he discovered his love for radio. Werner was always a genius with the machines, and at night he would listen to a man who called himself the professor telling kids scientific facts. This would’ve been illegal at the time, but Werner told Jutta how important it was for them to receive this positivity and hope in such a hard time. Marie would also listen to the same professor as a child herself, and they would learn about how the most important light is that which you cannot see. Already we see the connection between Marie and Werner, who is trying so hard to fix his radio just so he can hear her voice again.
Now, because the senior officer knows Werner’s whole team is gone, he sends another soldier to join him in the hunt for unauthorised radio activity. Werner has been protecting the girl on the radio all this while, but this guy could blow up his disguise. The officer tells Werner that the soldier too went to the prestigious national institute in Berlin, where geniuses like Werner go to become monsters. Werner uses this fact against the other soldier because he doesn’t remember seeing the guy there ever. Werner’s desperation to protect Marie makes him kill the other soldier in order to survive. On the other hand, Rumpel finally finds some intel on where he can catch Marie in the open. It seems the man is sick and will die very soon.
What Does Rumpel Want From Marie?
Now, it’s more than clear that Rumpel is looking for Marie in order to get answers about “Sea of Flames.” Marie heads out to get some oysters to feed her hunger. Rumpel shows up there too, making sure Marie knows that her life is in his hands, so she needs to tell him where the “Sea of Flames” is. Rumpel also knows about Marie’s father and how he worked in the museum, fleeing Paris with precious stones when the war broke out. Rumpel is desperate because he believes in the legend of the stone, and rather than finding it for Hitler, he hopes to keep it for himself and live forever (why, mate). At the end of the episode, Rumpel points a gun at Marie and counts down from 10. She tells him multiple times that she has no idea where the stone is, but he doesn’t believe her. The episode ends on the sound of a gunshot, but obviously Rumpel needs Marie to find the stone, so he’s not killed her for sure. Maybe injured minorly.