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Katniss expects someone to mention Peeta’s interview, but no one does. Peeta told her to find out what is going on, and her guilt over his capture deepens. Katniss reveals to Gale that she saw Peeta’s interview. Cressida interrupts to take them both to film a propo in District 12. Plutarch explains that that the propos are boosting rebels’ spirits in other districts. The film crew collect shots of Gale as he recounts the night of the firebombing.
While they break for lunch, Katniss shows Pollux how to trigger the mockingjays’ song by whistling the notes of Rue’s song. Pollux writes in the dirt, asking Katniss to sing. She responds with “The Hanging Tree,” a dark ballad she sang as a child. The true meaning becomes clearer now that Katniss is older. She questions whether the lovers in the song end up free because they escaped or because they hung themselves. Katniss relates to the lovers, remembering that in their first Hunger Games, she and Peeta were willing to eat the poisonous nightlock berries rather than kill each other. Katniss finishes the song and realizes she’s being filmed. Once they finish filming, Katniss goes to gather more things for her family. Gale appears in her kitchen and reminds her of the time she kissed him after he was whipped by the Capitol’s peacekeepers. Katniss sees the pain in his eyes and kisses him again.
Back in District 13, Boggs interrupts Katniss’s dinner to bring her to Command. President Snow is airing another propo of Peeta, who is in worse shape that before. Peeta calls again for a cease-fire, but Beetee hacks into the broadcast to show Peeta footage of Katniss and Finnick. When the Capitol broadcast takes back over, Peeta is shaken. Snow asks Peeta if he has anything to say to Katniss. Peeta starts to warn her that District 13 will be attacked that night, but Snow orders the broadcast cut off. Peeta struggles to keep talking, and the last thing Katniss sees is Peeta’s blood on the floor.
Haymitch and Katniss convince Coin that Peeta’s warning is credible, and Coin orders a fire drill. Everyone in District 13 gathers in the lowest levels in lockdown. Plutarch reminds Katniss that people look to her, so she tries to stay calm. Just as Katniss realizes that Prim isn’t down with everyone, Gale brings her and the cat into the safety of the bunker. As the missiles begin to fall, Coin expresses gratitude for Peeta’s warning. Katniss realizes she has spent very little time with Prim lately, so they talk. Prim shares that she feels safer in District 13, and that she will soon be trained to be a doctor. Prims asks how Katniss is really doing. When Katniss doesn’t answer, Prim says she doesn’t think Snow will kill Peeta, because then Snow would have no way left to hurt Katniss. Katniss asks what Prim thinks Snow will do to Peeta. Prim thinks Snow will do whatever it takes to break Katniss.
Katniss worries over Prim’s theory over the next three days in the bunker, while missiles fall outside. Katniss realizes, while taunting Buttercup with a flashlight, that Snow is torturing Katniss by keeping Peeta just beyond her grasp. Katniss commiserates with Finnick, knowing that Snow is torturing him, too, by holding Annie. Finnick tells Katniss about the moment he saw that her love for Peeta wasn’t a ruse, and Katniss realizes that Snow must have seen it, too.
Once the missiles have stopped, Coin releases everyone to return to their cabins, but Boggs pulls Katniss aside. The crew need to film her alive, to show that the Mockingjay and the citizens of District 13 are unharmed. The aboveground damage done can be fixed in time. Peeta’s warning gave the district time to save everyone. As Katniss and her team look for a spot to film, they find a crater full of pink and red roses: another warning to Katniss from Snow. Katniss is shaken, and unable to deliver her lines. Finnick tell the others that she knows how Snow is using Peeta. Katniss is drugged as she starts to panic. When she wakes in her bunk, Haymitch tells her that Coin has organized a rescue mission, and that Gale volunteered to help bring Peeta back.
Katniss sings The Hanging Tree during a propo, paralleling Katniss and Peeta’s circumstances. The song, featuring lovers who either escape together or die because they hang themselves, reminds Katniss of her and Peeta being willing to risk death together by eating nightlock berries at the end of their first Hunger Games. Now, Katniss is glad Peeta is alive but distressed because she knows he is suffering. With the true meaning of the song becoming clearer as she gets older, she relates to the lovers in the song. As she has at other times, she contemplates whether living in a broken world or escaping the broken world by dying is better.
Collins illustrates the importance of love and friendship as Katniss breaks through Peeta’s brainwashing and Peeta risks his life to deliver an important message to District 13. Katniss has watched Peeta look progressively worse as he appears in Capitol propos, suggesting that Peeta is being tortured and forced to say what he says under duress. Despite the obvious pain and manipulation Peeta has faced, seeing Katniss and hearing her sing in the propo caught his attention. The personal connection broke through to Peeta and he responded by risking his life to warn District 13 about a bombing. Katniss sees the cost of Peeta’s action as the Capitol’s broadcast reveals a pool of Peeta’s blood before it ends.
The hope that stems from relationships is repeatedly contrasted with the fear and uncertainty of warfare. Peeta’s warning provides hope that District 13 will survive a bombing despite the despair of actually facing a bombing. Hope grows as people realize that Peeta’s warning saved them by giving them time to bunker down. However, the fact that a hostile force knows the location of the rebels produces fear.
Prim continues to give Katniss hope as she sees Prim’s growth. Prim is matter-of-fact in her assessment of Snow and Peeta, saying if Snow killed Peeta, he would have no way to further hurt Katniss. Prim acts like an elder sibling when she tells Katniss what she doesn’t want to hear: that she thinks Snow will do whatever it takes to break Katniss. While Prim’s words are jarring, it reveals that Prim is growing despite the threats of the world around them. Since protecting Prim is the inciting incident for the series, the fact that Prim has been able to live and grow up provides hope.
After the bombing, Katniss emerges from the bunker and sees a crater strewn with roses, serving as a symbol of intimidation representing the violence and ruthlessness of the Capitol. Katniss associates the roses with President Snow, who explicitly told Katniss that he would hurt the people she loved if she broke the peace in Panem. She views the roses as a symbolic warning that Snow always knows where she is and will follow through on what he threatened her with. Just as the Mockingjay provides symbolic unifying power to the rebellion, President Snow’s roses symbolize the power and ruthlessness of President Snow. The crater of roses fulfills its purpose in terrifying Katniss.