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Boggs, furious after a call with Coin, orders his second in command to set up a guard on Peeta. Katniss confronts Boggs about Coin’s intentions toward her. Boggs reveals that Coin had wanted to save Peeta from the arena instead of Katniss. Katniss represents a threat to Coin, and Katniss made the situation worse by forcing Coin to rescue the other victors. Boggs reminds Katniss that she has outlived her usefulness to Coin. The only remaining way Katniss can fire up the rebellion is to die in combat. However, Boggs promises Katniss this will not happen on his watch, because she has earned the right to a long life. The squad discusses the details of Peeta’s guard. Gale tells Katniss that he knows she plans to run and will go with her. Haymitch calls and accuses Katniss of trying to provoke Peeta.
That night, Katniss and Peeta argue about their shared history. Finnick interrupts to propose that when Peeta is unsure what is real and what is not, he should ask. They all help rebuild Peeta’s memories, and he begins to see patterns in the Capitol’s manipulation. The next day, Cressida directs the squad to disable some pods outside an apartment complex. Then Boggs steps on a bomb, blowing off his legs.
In the aftermath of a second explosion, Boggs gives the Holo to Katniss. Black tar from a pod pours through the street toward them. Katniss tries to drag Boggs to safety, but Peeta attacks her, triggered by the chaos. Katniss fends him off and manages to escape to safety along with the other members of the squad, minus one who set off another pod when he saved Katniss from Peeta. With his last breath, Boggs warns Katniss not to trust others and to finish what she started. When Jackson tries to assume command of the squad, Katniss makes up a lie about a special mission from Coin and is surprised when Cressida backs up her story. The squad presses on with Katniss in the lead, an unconscious, handcuffed Peeta in tow. The squad has taken refuge in an apartment when the television starts broadcasting footage of their recent disaster, declaring them all dead. The group discuss what to do next, knowing that the rebels and the Capitol believe they are dead. Peeta says their next move should be to kill him.
Peeta feels guilty over their teammate’s death and would rather be put down before he kills anyone else. Gale volunteers to kill Peeta before that happens, but Peeta asks for a nightlock pill instead, which they’ve all been given to take if they are captured. Katniss refuses to take on responsibility for Peeta’s death and denies his request. Another propo lights up the television. President Snow congratulates the Peacekeepers for killing the Mockingjay and suppressing the rebellion, which will crumble without her as its leader. Snow’s message is interrupted, and his image is replaced by President Coin’s. She identifies herself as the leader of the rebellion and praises Katniss, urging the rebels to draw strength from their memory of her. Snow regains control of the broadcast and declares he will find and show them Katniss’s body the next day.
The squad must leave the apartment. Their only exit route is through the underground tunnels, still dotted with pods. Pollux spent years working in those tunnels, so as Peeta cheerfully points out, he becomes their biggest asset. After making makes good time, the squad rests for the night. Katniss wakes for her watch and talks with Peeta about unraveling his true memories from the altered memories. He asks if she’s still protecting him, real or not real? Real, Katniss says. In the morning, as the squad prepares to leave, they hear a repeated word echoing through the tunnels—Katniss.
Peeta wakes to the noise, shouting for Katniss to run. The squad gathers and heads down the tunnels, away from the hissing cries. The smell of Snow’s roses forces Katniss to lead the team into the Transfer, an underground causeway for delivery vehicles. Messalla is killed by a pod, and the rest of the squad take fire from a group of Peacekeepers. In their retreat to higher ground, Jackson and Leeg 1 are lost to a horde of Capitol mutts. The remaining squad members find a ladder leading upward, but only Katniss, Peeta, Gale, Pollux and Cressida reach street level. Katniss turns to the carnage below and watches as Finnick is taken down by a mutt. Activating the Holo’s self-destruct feature, Katniss drops it into the fray to give Finnick a quick death instead of an agonizing one. The five tend to their wounds, and Peeta demands again to be killed. The presence of the Mutts is weakening his grip on reality. Instead, Katniss kisses him. Pollux leads the group into a nearby home, surprising its Capitol resident. Katniss kills the woman immediately.
With the Holo gone, Cressida becomes their guide. She establishes where they are, and she knows how to disguise them and where to lead them. The group arrives at a store run by a woman named Tigris. Katniss recognizes the woman, a former stylist from the Hunger Games, by her distinctive face, which has been surgically altered to resemble a cat. Cressida mentions Plutarch, prompting Tigris to lead the group into a hidden saferoom. Katniss tends to Peeta’s wounds, reminding him of their first Hunger Games together. Katniss doesn’t set up a guard schedule for Peeta, and they all try to get some sleep. When she awakes, Katniss is filled with guilt over the dead members of their squad. She reveals to the squad that she lied about Coin’s special assignment, but they are not shocked. Katniss had demanded to kill Snow from the beginning. Peeta tells Katniss they follow her because they believe she will do it. The group works on a plan to assassinate the President, and they watch the television for updates from the Capitol. Later, while they think Katniss is asleep, Peeta and Gale discuss Katniss’s feelings for them. Peeta and Gale wonder which of them Katniss will choose in the end.
The Mockingjay symbolizes hope, yet Katniss exists as a separate entity. The Mockingjay has the symbolic power to unify the Districts and rally them to fight the Capitol—Boggs even explains to Katniss that Coin would benefit more from the Mockingjay dying than surviving the war and becoming a political opponent. However, Katniss has a life and her own desires beyond Snow and Coin’s political moves. She wants to be free from tyranny and to live out her life with the people she loves in peace. Boggs affirms this desire by telling her that she has earned that.
Coin represents abusive power structures, but Boggs, another authority figure, subverts that notion by showing Katniss genuine affection. Where Coin’s unchecked power is corrosive, rendering her power-hungry and ruthless, Boggs is a rather more upstanding character; he sees Katniss as a human being and not just a pawn. Boggs, then, serves as a foil to Coin, a leader corrupted by power.
Unity amongst the people in the team proves to be a powerful force. Gale demonstrates how well he knows Katniss by confronting her about her plan to run to the Capitol and reinforces their lifelong friendship by saying he will go with her. Later that night, Katniss and Peeta argue over memories he believes are true because of his hijacking. However, speaking candidly about the truth helps Peeta and Katniss begin to trust each other again. As Boggs dies entrusting the Holo to Katniss, Cressida stands with Katniss, and they decide not to kill Peeta. They become more unified as a team and are able to effectively make their way toward President Snow.
The demise of the squad members illustrates the inevitability of death, the tragedy of war, and the extent to which the victims were ultimately expendable to Coin. The mission that was to be a propaganda stunt turns deadly, and Peeta’s somber request to be killed so he does not inflict more pain highlights the tragedy of the resulting deaths. Peeta has become a danger to the team because of the Capitol’s manipulation. However, as a victim himself, his death would be just as much a tragedy as theirs.
Sound and smell imagery builds tension, setting up the conflict with Capitol mutts. As the squad hears Katniss’s name and smells the roses, what they hear and smell alludes to a coming threat. The rose, which has thus far symbolized Snow’s intimidation and, even more frightening, his willingness to follow through on threats, serves as a warning to the characters to escape. The atmosphere of fear cultivated by the imagery quickly shifts to panic, thus setting the scene for still more tragic deaths.
The love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale moves closer to resolution. After escaping the mutts, Peeta and Gale have an amicable talk about which one of them Katniss will choose. While tensions between the two have run high due to jealousy, they begin to make peace with each other. However, both Peeta and Gale realize Katniss will have to make a decision soon since the war is ending, edging them ever nearer to not only the resolution of this secondary conflict, but also its peak.