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Haymitch offers to sedate Katniss until the team returns, hopefully with Peeta and Annie. Instead, Katniss films a propo to distract the Capitol during the mission. Cressida assembles Katniss and the camera crew aboveground and begins interviewing Katniss about Peeta. Katniss describes how she met Peeta, then relays the warning Snow gave her and how he described the Capitol as being fragile.
Then it’s Finnick’s turn. Finnick describes how Snow used him, and other desirable victors, sending them as sexual favors to gain influence over members of the Capitol. Finnick’s “patrons” would share secrets with him, and this is how he learned that Snow rose to power by poisoning his rivals, his enemies, and even himself to deflect suspicion. Beetee hacks into the Capitol broadcast feed and plays both interviews, to distract Capitol attention during the rescue. When the rescue team returns, Haymitch brings Finnick and Katniss to the hospital. Gale is being treated for minor wounds, and Finnick and Annie reunite. Katniss sees Peeta, alive and conscious. Katniss goes to him, and Peeta runs to her with outstretched arms, finally closing his hands around her throat.
Katniss awakes in the hospital with a brace around her neck and is told she must rest her voice. Prim shields Katniss’s recovery from interruptions. Plutarch, Haymitch, and Beetee visit to explain Peeta’s state. Peeta has been “hijacked” by the Capitol. They dosed Peeta with venom and tortured him with images of Katniss to instill in him a drive to attack her. There’s no known reversal method. Katniss recovers, and Prim encourages her not to give up on Peeta. Katniss visits Gale and Beetee, who have been adapting Gale’s hunting traps for use against the Capitol. One trap includes a timed double explosion, drawing additional victims in as they care for the wounded from the first blast.
Katniss leaves, horrified by the cruelty of the device, and runs into Haymitch. Haymitch brought another friend of Peeta’s, Delly, to see how Peeta will react to her. While Katniss waits outside, Delly explains to Peeta that they’re in District 13. Peeta asks Delly about his family, and she explains that they were killed in a fire that broke out in District 12. Shouting angrily, Peeta blames Katniss for the fire. He warns Delly that Katniss is a killer, a liar, and a mutt: a genetic mutant made by the Capitol. Katniss demands to be taken somewhere else, to be sent into the Capitol to kill Snow.
In a compromise, Katniss is sent to District Two. The Capitol’s army and weaponry are housed there, entrenched under a mountain called the Nut. Many citizens of District 2 are loyal to the Capitol, well fed and raising their children as Careers to win the Hunger Games. Katniss films propos and visits wounded members of the rebellion, formerly enslaved stonecutters of District 2. Katniss regains her strength, living aboveground, and processes what Snow did to Peeta.
Prim and Haymitch call and update Katniss on Peeta’s progress, and she gives them news from the war front. Gale is recruited to a team to help figure out how to crack the Nut and joins Katniss in District 2. Gale admits that he is jealous of Peeta, and Katniss confesses that because of Gale, she always felt conflicted about kissing Peeta. Katniss accepts that she and Peeta may never be together again, and kisses Gale. Gale stops her when he realizes she’s not in her right mind. The next day, Katniss and Gale meet with rebel command in Two to review the Nut’s layout. Gale creates a plan to trigger avalanches, blocking off its exits and airways. Katniss realizes that Gale does not plan for the inhabitants of the Nut to survive.
Lyme, District 2’s rebel commander, argues that the Nut’s inhabitants should have the chance to surrender. Gale retorts that the other districts have not had that chance. Katniss reminds Gale that they lost both their fathers to a similar cave-in at the District 12 mine. The team decides to leave one exit for the survivors but to post armed troops outside to capture them. Gale’s plan is executed perfectly, and Katniss waits with the armed troops. Her mind is taken back to cave-in, but she is interrupted by a call from Haymitch, with updates on Peeta’s progress. Peeta had been shown the clip of Katniss singing “The Hanging Tree”, and Peeta had calmly recognized it from when he overheard Katniss’s father singing it.
Katniss begins filming a propo to show Panem the destruction in District 2. Capitol soldiers escape, and Katniss begs the rebel forces to hold fire. Katniss approaches a wounded Capitol soldier, pleading with them all to lay down their arms. Katniss has been a pawn in the Capitol’s games. They have all been killing each other, and Katniss begs them to stop. As Katniss stands, asking the other soldiers to join the rebels, she is shot.
Katniss confronts the lack of control she feels by providing a distraction to keep the team safe instead of helplessly waiting for the rescue team to return with Peeta. Katniss has a productive idea and films a propo designed to distract everyone in the Capitol while the mission is carried out. Katniss uses what agency she has, which distracts her and gives her hope for a successful rescue. Her decision to come up with a plan and act on it shows growth from the helplessness she felt earlier in the novel, where the only choice seemingly laid out before her was to allow herself to be used as a symbol as the Mockingjay. Now, although she still does not have control over many things in life, she finds a way to take action where she can.
Finnick and Katniss use truth as a weapon against tyranny as they broadcast a propo in Panem, including the Capitol. Katniss relays the tender story of how she and Peeta met and gives the viewers of the propo some information about their president, discussing the warning Snow gave her and his description of the Capitol as fragile. She hopes this communique will get Capitol viewers to see their president for the evil man he is. Next, Finnick gets back at Snow by recording his story of abuse at Snow’s hands. He says that Snow rose to power by killing his enemies, and these interviews have the desired distracting effect. While the primary goal of distracting the Capitol in order to save the victors is successful, the interview also provides a blow to the Capitol, delivering truth to the residents about the wickedness of their leader, President Snow.
Ironically, Katniss gets Peeta back, but he has been brainwashed against her, demonstrating the cruelty and vindictiveness of Snow. Brainwashing Peeta strikes a personal rather than strategic blow against Katniss. While the loss of the person she loves (to brainwashing, rather than death) hurts, it interestingly does not affect the Mockingjay as a symbol. Though Katniss is the Mockingjay, the Mockingjay has become a symbol larger than herself.
Gale and Beetee’s cruel inventions bring the depravity of humanity back into focus. While they fight to establish a democracy, the pair show as much cruelty as the Capitol. They create a bomb designed to give a double blast to hurt the rescuers who rush in to help the victims of the first blast. Katniss is shocked at the brutality of ruthlessly killing the people who rush to help, reminiscent of the shock Katniss felt when the Capitol earlier destroyed a hospital full of injured people. Although the rebels fight for a righteous cause, the cruelty on both sides of the war becomes apparent.
Before, Katniss felt helpless when the rescue team left to rescue the victors, so she came up with the idea to film a propo. Now, she feels helpless because her presence seems to hurt Peeta instead of helping him. Katniss responds to this lack of control by taking action and planning to kill President Snow. Although killing the president of Panem is a lofty goal, the agency of setting a goal and trying to fulfill it gives Katniss a sense of purpose.
Katniss’s limited first-person point of view provides insight into the interpersonal conflicts and emotional factors in the story, but the briefing meetings provide important information about the setting of Panem. Collins uses descriptive language to detail how District 2 is set up and where Katniss is sent to help break the Nut. If destroyed, the rebels will have gained victory over the only district left that is loyal to the Capitol. The structure of the briefing meeting helps reveal that, despite the pain Katniss feels from watching people die and having Peeta brainwashed, the rebels are optimistic about their chances.
Katniss’s conflicted feelings about Gale and Peeta reveal the contrast between the struggles of everyday life and the life-or-death struggles of warfare. Gale is jealous of Peeta, even in his altered state, and Katniss has always been conflicted when kissing Peeta because of Gale. They have faced the truth together, and Katniss feels she and Peeta may never be together again, so in a vulnerable moment, she kisses Gale. While jealousy seems small in comparison to war, it is an important part of their lives. Even in the midst of greater struggles, they still deal with the comparative mundanity of life.
The characters grapple with revenge versus justice. Some stoop to the same levels as the Capitol while others show mercy because lives hang in the balance. Gale comes up with a plan to create avalanches down the sides of the Nut, which would trap all workers inside. Katniss once again faces Gale’s dark side when she realizes his plan will not leave any survivors. The team opts for humanity against Gale’s wishes, and will leave one exit with armed troops outside to capture survivors. Gale’s cruelty, then, has become more about revenge than justice; he focuses on the ways that the Capitol ruthlessly attacked District 12 rather than the innocent people he would kill by completely blocking off the exits.
As soldiers begin emerging from the Nut, Katniss uses the metaphor of pawns in a chess game to describe the cycle of killing set in motion by those using them for their own purposes. Political leaders are using them—that is, Katniss and the soldiers—as a means to an end, with little regard for their lives. Ultimately, obeying the orders of a tyrant does them no good. The comparison she draws reveals the compassion she has for the Capitol’s soldiers, acknowledging that the tyranny goes beyond them. It also further establishes the symbol of the Mockingjay since, although she has been used, she still fights back.