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Katniss overheard the conversation between Gale and Peeta. She ponders Gale’s answer, that Katniss will choose the one she can’t survive without. Katniss feels she can survive without both of them. In the morning, the group learns that rebel forces have found a way to safely advance past the pods and are quickly gaining ground. Capitol refugees flee to the city’s center. Katniss wonders whether Snow will open his mansion to house the refugees, thereby giving the squad a chance at entry. Gale hands his nightlock pill to Peeta. Katniss uncuffs Peeta and hugs him one last time.
In Tigris’s disguises, the group splits up: Cressida with Pollux, Gale with Katniss, and Peeta alone. Katniss and Gale make their way, hidden among Capitol refugees, toward Snow’s mansion. Just as Katniss is recognized by a Capitol child, shots are fired from the rooftops into the crowds. Katniss and Gale are separated as they take cover, and Katniss watches as Gale is arrested by Peacekeepers. The gunfire has stopped, and Katniss sees children being taken from the crowd to form a human shield around Snow’s mansion. A Capitol hovercraft flies overheard, releasing what seem to be small aid parachutes. The children recognize the parachutes from the Hunger Games and reach for them. In seconds, the parachutes have detonated, killing and injuring the Capitol children. As aid workers rush in, Katniss recognizes one of them: her sister Prim. The sisters’ eyes meet as the second round of parachutes detonates.
Katniss drifts in and out of consciousness as she recovers from burns she sustained in the explosion that killed Prim. Coin visits to inform Katniss that Snow has been saved for Katniss to kill. Katniss refuses to speak, confusing her doctors. Katniss also learns that the Capitol fell the day the children were bombed, and that Coin is the new president of Panem. Gale and Peeta are alive, as are Pollux and Cressida.
Once Katniss is released from the hospital, she is moved with her grieving mother into a room in Snow’s mansion. Commander Paylor gives Katniss permission to visit Snow, imprisoned in his home and awaiting execution. Snow tells Katniss he is sorry about her sister, and informs her he was about to surrender when they released the parachutes. Katniss realizes that the rebel forces, not the Capitol, dropped the bombs, and she listens as Snow credits Coin with the move. Snow and Katniss were too focused on each other to see what Coin had been planning. Katniss remembers Gale’s trap, but she tells Snow she doesn’t believe him. Snow reminders her of the promise they made after her first Hunger Games: never to lie to each other.
Katniss is reeling from her conversation with Snow. She remembers that Boggs warned her about Coin, that Katniss is a threat to Coin’s authority. With no one else to turn to, Katniss looks for her old mentor, Haymitch. When Katniss finds him, he is drunk and dismissive, so she changes her mind and leaves. Increasingly agitated, she must once again be sedated. Katniss eventually wakes to find Effie Trinket alive and well. She had been imprisoned for helping Haymitch and Plutarch in their plot to rescue Katniss from the Quarter Quell arena. Effie is reinstated as the head of Katniss’s prep team in time for Snow’s execution. Gale interrupts their work to bring Katniss the arrow she will use to kill Snow. Katniss asks if it was Gale’s bomb that killed Prim, but they both know his answer won’t change anything. Gale will forever be tied to Prim’s death.
Effie takes Katniss to a meeting where she and the remaining victors have been gathered by President Coin. The rebels want retribution, and Coin asks the victors to vote on a new Hunger Games. Coin proposes that the tributes come from among the Capitol children instead of the district children. In the end, Peeta’s vote is the only no. Coin’s motion carries, and she goes to take her place for Snow’s execution. Katniss asks if the new president can see the rose on Snow’s lapel from where she will sit. Coin answers that she can. Katniss takes up her bow and finds Snow in her sights. Blood drips from his mouth, and Katniss remembers their promise. She shifts her bow and fires, killing President Coin.
Snow laughs, choking on his own blood. Katniss tries to take her nightlock pill, but Peeta stops her and the pill is lost in the struggle. Katniss is bound, blindfolded, and locked in a room. For two days, she refuses food and sleep, only singing to pass the time. Haymitch comes to tell Katniss her trial is over. They are going home. Haymitch takes her to a hovercraft where Plutarch is waiting for them. Snow is dead, and Commander Paylor has been appointed President. Plutarch, Panem’s new secretary of communications, televised Katniss’s trial. Katniss’s doctor and Peeta testified in her defense, and Katniss was released to be confined in her home in District 12. Haymitch will look after her, as Katniss’s mother plans to start a hospital in District 4. Katniss’s old friend Greasy Sae is hired to clean and cook for Katniss in her home in the Victor’s Circle. Haymitch spends his days drinking, and Katniss mostly sleeps, plagued by nightmares.
One day, Katniss is awakened by a noise outside. She storms outside to confront whatever new threat the noise brings, but it’s just Peeta digging in the garden. Peeta has found evening primroses in the forest and is planting them outside Katniss’s front door in honor of her sister. Over breakfast, Katniss asks about Gale. Greasy Sae tells Katniss that Gale started a job in District 2. Katniss decides to go hunting. She learns about the death of the mayor’s family from another member of District 12. Katniss doesn’t have enough strength to hunt, so she heads home. Buttercup has returned, looking for Prim. Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch begin to rebuild their lives. Together, they create a book of memories to honor the dead. Katniss recognizes that she needs Peeta, and the two rekindle their relationship.
Katniss and Peeta have two children. The older, a girl, has been taught in school about the Hunger Games. They have been abolished, and the arenas dismantled. Katniss sings Rue’s lullaby to her own children. One day, she will have to explain to them why their parents have such terrible nightmares. Katniss plays a new game when things get bad: she makes a list of all the good things she’s seen people do. After twenty years, the list grows long.
Facing trials together brings unity between Peeta and Gale. That Gale leaves Peeta his nightlock pill is significant because it allows Peeta to make his own decisions, granting him the agency to avoid more torture at the hands of the Capitol even if it means choosing death instead. The pill is a generous gift from Gale because he knows that, going into battle, he risks the same pain that Peeta faced. Giving him the pill requires great sacrifice on Gale’s part, evidence of the camaraderie built from fighting the Capitol together.
The resolution of the main conflict comes at a terrible cost. While the violence effectively ends the war, it comes at the expense of innocent lives. That Prim dies as a result of Gale’s invention not only portrays the cost of war, it does so ironically; the inciting incident in the first book was Katniss’s refusal to let Prim participate in the Hunger Games. She volunteered to take Prim’s place, while Gale promised Katniss he’d look after Prim. Now, he’s one of the agents of her death, and Prim, a symbol of hope and innocence and ultimately the very reason Katniss would become the Mockingjay, has been lost.
Despite defeating Snow, Katniss once more faces the pain of being used by people in power, as Coin’s actions likely killed her sister. The conflict is seemingly resolved when the war ends and the rebels take over the Capitol, yet Coin’s ruthless tactics mirror those of President Snow, forcing Katniss to question who the real enemy is and whether they have simply traded one corrupted tyrant for another. As Katniss becomes aware that the enemy she faces is an ideology instead of a person, she contemplates how to respond.
President Coin’s meeting with the former Hunger Game’s tributes illustrates her character’s motivations: power and revenge, once again serving as a parallel the antagonist President Snow. Coin asks the tributes to vote on a new Hunger Games where the tributes will come from the Capitol children. Despite Peeta’s dissenting vote, Coin’s plan wins, effectively continuing the cycle of violence.
Katniss questioning whether Coin can see the rose on Snow’s lapel at the execution foreshadows Katniss’s decision to execute Coin instead of Snow. Having been informed that Snow did not order the bombs that killed her sister, Katniss makes the choice to end Coin’s reign of terror before it can begin. That Snow dies choking on his own blood is an instance of poetic justice, as he likely dies of the same poison he used on others.
In the aftermath of killing Coin, Katniss tries to take her nightlock pill but Peeta stops her, a parallel and inversion of their attempted “suicide” in the first book. As much as Katniss wants to escape the difficulties of life, she must face the grief of Prim’s death, the uncertainty of a new world, and whatever punishment awaits her for killing the new president.
That Katniss returns home to the ruined District 12 and continues to have nightmares signifies the lasting effects of war and trauma, even in the face of victory. That said, the trilogy closes on a hopeful note as Katniss lives a realistic, yet content, life with Peeta. They start a family and move forward beyond the tragedy that brought them together. They create a game listing good things they have seen, contrasting the horrors they have witnessed and the pain they have endured. Katniss’s list of the good things grows, suggesting that the world can and will change for the better.