And if we burn, you burn with us! - Katniss Everdeen
Mockingjay is the concluding chapter of the Hunger Games trilogy. For the most part, Mockingjay is a satisfying finale. The focal point of this conclusion is for Katniss and District 13 to finally put an end to President Snow’s reign of terror. To do so, District 13 must rally the remaining districts to bring the assault to the Capitol. They inevitably convince Katniss to become their Mockingjay and the prime symbol of the rebellion. It is the last hope they have to eradicate the totalitarian government in power. However, there are a few things that bothered me in Mockingjay. Although I enjoyed reading the entire Hunger Games trilogy, the author takes some gutsy risks with certain characters that I think could have been played out differently and thus had a more satisfying conclusion.
The first half of Mockingjay can be a drag. Catching Fire did somewhat drag in the first half, but the tension was present because the Capitol was aggressively responding to the aftermath of the previous Hunger Games. That is not to say nothing significant happens in the first half of Mockingjay. Peeta is brainwashed to being pawn to the Capitol and is seemingly forced to speak on their behalf. Katniss is followed by a camera crew to create propaganda videos called ‘propos.’ They choose to visit District 8 in order to film footage at the hospital hospital. After the Capitol bombs the hapless hospital and the innocent people inside, Katniss utters her most famous catchphrase “And if we burn, you burn with us!” Soon after, Peeta warns District 13 of an oncoming airstrike. After the evacuation is successful, this leads to the rebels including Gale to venture on a rescue mission to rescue the captured tributes including Johanna from the Quarter Quell. Peeta is rescued by the rebels, but is ‘hijacked’ to hate Katniss almost killing her when they are reunited.
Oddly enough, Katniss isn’t allowed to do what she wants. President Coin bosses Katniss around. Only those fit to fight in the frontlines are permitted to do so. Thus, Katniss goes through extensive training with Johanna (a scene that is absent in the movie adaption). Although I like this scene because we get a lot of time with Johanna, I think it does drag longer than it should considering it is somewhat stupid that Katniss has to prove herself again. Did President Coin not see Katniss in the two previous Hunger Games? The reason behind however comes clear towards the end of the novel.
After Katniss essentially earns the right to fight in the frontlines, the pace escalates. From this point onwards, the tone shifts to a more gritty feel. Suzanne Collins really pushes what constitutes as a young adult novel despite the age of the main characters. The imagery is dark, mature, and gut wrenching. It is a feat of her writing, but also tries to be much more realistic. I enjoyed the journey to assassinate Snow in his mansion which was essentially the “76th Hunger Games”, as Finnick says. The last three chapters are extremely depressing which almost made me question if I was reading a different genre. The very last few pages do end on a high note which rewards readers what we have thought all along. In a way it’s bittersweet because it took almost everyone dying to achieve such a feet.
Overall, Mockingjay’s plot is the most uneven of the trilogy. It feels inconsistent with the unequal time spent in things that are most important in the present. Maybe the battles in the other Districts should have been stretched out or more time should have been spent with some characters since this was their last hurrah. I do applaud the plot and colorful characters that have stuck with me since the first part of the trilogy. Regardless, I had hoped for a much more consistent pace that fleshed out the rather simple plot.
Plot Score: 4.00/5.00
What I’ve liked about Katniss at this point is reading her thoughts. Since the trilogy is written from her perspective, I’ve had amusement in her harsh thoughts towards those who bother her or those she is unsure of. In Mockingjay, she shows admiration towards Finnick which I think was one of the strongest points in this novel. She, like him, have someone they have feelings for and President Snow has them captive. Essentially, they become close friends understanding one another and having the utmost respect. I also appreciate Katniss’s relationship with Johanna. Although Johanna is consistently outspoken and can seem pessimistic towards Katniss, they both truly admire one another for what they have done.
Katniss is very likeable when she interacts with her friends showing concern for them. This might be the best she has been in the trilogy. What doesn’t change is her attitude towards Snow and the Capitol or political figures in general including President Coin. She only cares about protecting those around her, but she convinces herself to kill Snow to keep them unharmed. Despite trying to keep her emotions under control, she is also stricken by the horrors of the war. That is when she begins to truly appreciate Peeta for who he is. Katniss has long thought about killing him countless times, but she would lose much more than just him if she were to put him down. In the end, Katniss remains true to herself showing grit and empathy when needed.
Character Score: 5.00/5.00
Any doubts Katniss had about Peeta were vanished in Mockingjay. While he was being tortured by the Capitol and forced to be their mouthpiece, Peeta showed signs of his innocence still intact. He was true to himself despite becoming a puppet to President Snow. His words demonstrate how powerful his speeches are which has been his strength throughout the trilogy.
After Peeta is rescued, it is revealed that he has been ‘hijacked’ by tracker jacker poison to be condition to hate Katniss and attempt to kill her. It is something he has no control of yet, he is trying to fight it. Katniss and the others try their best to recuperate his memories which seems to have little to no effect on him. However, he is strangely sent to accompany Katniss’s group lead by Bogs to assault Snow’s mansion. This was found out to be on Coin’s orders which Katniss grows suspicious of. Because Peeta is struggling to cope with the ‘hijacking,’ he desires to be killed off since he’s a liability.
I think this is the best we see of Peeta because it shows determination on his part. If it meant he would be brutally tortured by the Capitol to keep District 13 alive including Katniss, then he would not question it. As I have mentioned several times before, Peeta isn’t a super powerful and generic male character who can do it all by himself. His actions speak for themselves. They are simple, but convincing. He isn’t going to bulldoze his way through every obstacle he faces. He just wants to live in peace. It has been a conflict with himself more than anything sometimes doubting his abilities.
Character Score: 4.75/5.00
Haymitch doesn’t play an essential role in Mockingjay as he did in the first two chapters of the trilogy. He has served his purpose to spark the uprising. That is not to say he has his moments, but I feel like he has taken a back seat when you compare his purpose in Mockingjay and to the previous books. I wished he had gone with Katniss and company to storm the Capitol. I really wanted to see how he would have faired in tense situations and why it solidifies that he was once a victor of the Hunger Games. His decision at the end voting to have one last symbolic Hunger Games came to me as a surprise although deep down inside. He certainly didn’t want to and was only pretending to be on Coin’s side. It simply demonstrated his loyal support towards Katniss which he has developed since the first book. Haymitch is known for hiding a lot of secrets from the main characters and hides his true intentions more times than not which makes him an exotic character throughout.
Character Score: 4.00/5.00
Gale becomes something different by the end of Mockingjay. Good or bad, his intentions were in the favor of District 13. He had long desired to see President Snow overthrown which convinced him to be a true soldier for the rebellion. This in turn leads to him being in the midst of the battlefield throughout the novel. His disdain towards the Capitol is demonstrated through his actions to the point that his relationship with Katniss steadily slips from his grasps. Gale was protective of Katniss and his family. This was proof that he had a good heart. Despite his good intentions, Gale admits that Peeta is better off with Katniss than he is with her because of what he is becoming.
After the heartbreaking death of Prim, Katniss asks Gale if he knew nothing about the hovercrafts that dropped the bombs. Gale is unsure, but he had become loyal to District 13 doing whatever it took to overthrow President Snow and bring him to justice. Although not explicitly mentioned by Gale, there are hints that it was in fact District 13 who dropped the bombs killing Prim in the process. It is not unreasonable that Gale knows the truth, but it is also unlikely he knew Prim was directly in the crossfire. I would like to think he was manipulated by President Coin to agree to it without question. The truth may never be told and I felt a bit of forgiveness for Gale knowing he was caught tied up in the mess. By the end, Katniss and Gale part ways after the ghastly incident that was more than all likelihood instigated by President Coin. It is truly heartbreaking knowing Gale had done everything to protect Katniss and her family for years.
Character Score: 4.50/5.00
In my Catching Fire review, I mentioned how Finnick rivals Katniss as my favorite overall character of the entire trilogy. I will be doing a top 10 favorite Hunger Games characters at some point both in the novels and films. My point here is that Finnick and Katniss will appear of course, perhaps at the very top. My other point here is that I can’t ignore Finnick’s ultimate fate which has annoyed me ever since I read those infamous words.
Finnick was obviously a broken man who was desperate to be reunited with his lover, Annie. His time spent in District 13 and Katniss showed exactly that. His tortured mind paralleled Katniss which in return lead both of them to come closer as friends. His propo which he volunteered to do was aimed against Snow in order to expose the man behind it all. It was revealed that after he won the Hunger Games several years back, he was sold to prostitution at the Capitol because of charming looks. This might be my favorite part because you really believe Finnick’s use of words such as “poison.” It comes off as passionate and scathing which shows a slightly different side of Finnick that we hadn’t seen before.
Finnick and Annie are ultimately reunited after a rescue mission is successful. They were shortly married afterwards with a big wedding ceremony held. Shortly after, he agrees to join Katniss and her crew to finish the fight. I think he has grown fond of Katniss at this point that he isn’t willing to let her do it alone. He after all has a vendetta on President Snow and has every reason to join on the onslaught. Up to this point, Finnick was on par with Katniss as my favorite character. So without further ado, its my time to rant on his demise.
Look, I get it. Characters died left and right after the lizard mutts kills the majority of the group. Finnick went out a hero no doubt and I like to believe his death was not in vain. But what bothered me the most was how it all went down. I couldn’t believe I had read that he was gone just like. I was stunned in disbelief. To me, that was a great job of how to envoke a reaction out of me and to other readers. I just don’t think Finnick should have been killed the way he did. It seemed a bit too easy and cheap. If he had died, I would have rather seen him blow himself up along other peacekeepers to keep the others alive, not just some mutts. He was a previous Hunger Games winner for crying out loud. I think humans should have killed him directly, not stupid mutts. Pathetic and underwhelming is perfect way to put his exit in the series and I thing this is the biggest complaint of Mockingjay from fans and critics alike and I agree with them.
RIP Finnick Odair
0.00/5.00 for dumbest death ever
5.00/5.00 for Character Score
Johanna’s attitude towards Katniss is static, but she does respect her and grows admiration for her. Johanna is bitter about what Snow did to her by making her a morphling addict. It is a twisted thought that makes me feel pity for Johanna more than any character in Mockingjay. I adore her moments with Katniss. I almost think of her as an older sister to Katniss who only had a younger sister she could relate to. She is incapable of joining Katniss and the rest to venture into the Capitol which I think is also a missed opportunity in the story. I would have loved her to see spew out curses to Snow and mocking him for making her a drug addict.
Like with some of the other characters, I would have liked to seen more out of her not just in personality, but also as in her actions. It was depressing reading how badly she had been tortured. Maybe she could have been dossed with a drug to keep her addiction in check resulting her joining with Katniss and her crew. Her vote in favor of having another Hunger Games was further proof of her rage towards Snow. She believed it was an eye for an eye to the people of the Capitol to suffer the same horrors she had to confront.
Character Score: 4.75/5.00
Snow’s presence is overreaching in Mockingjay. We know he is the one calling the airstrike to clear out his enemies, but we can’t stop thinking what he is thinking too. His words may be truthful in this instance, but his actions have always been ruthless and barbaric. There is some reason to believe he didn’t call in the airstrike atop the children in front of his mansion. He was clearly using them as a last line of defense. Why would he shatter his own defenses? Thus, when Snow insists that him and Katniss would never lie to each other, there was reason to admit he was being honest. He had nothing to lose after he had already surrendered. He was dying from an illness. His days were numbered. Snow is a simple yet complex villain who was corrupt to the core yet can show some rare glimpses of honesty. He may not always spew truth, but when he does, he makes sure it is clear.
Character Score: 4.25/5.00
Coin showed on and off that she was distrustful of Katniss. She wanted her to be the Mockingjay of the rebellion, while at the same time putting her life in peril more times than not for unspecified reasons. Like Haymitch, she hid too many secrets, but she was clearly not loyal to Katniss as he was. Coin had also committed some questionable acts such as imprisoning Katniss’s previous stylists during the Games, Flavius and Octavia. When she brings up the idea to have a final symbolic Hunger Games, I knew she could no longer be trusted. That was the point of no return for her. She was willing to be just as ruthless if not more so than President Snow. Her true intentions become clearer and clearer to Katniss resulting in Coin’s unexpected execution instead of Snow’s. Maybe once she was a good person like Snow, but something took over their minds basking in the misery of others.
Character Score: 4.00/5.00
Ultimately, Mockingjay is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy primarily if you focus on Katniss’s and Peeta’s finale and epilogue. I appreciate their bittersweet ending, but I can’t help to notice that some of the characters deserved much more. Finnick’s death still bothers me to this day painting a dark cloud over the book in my opinion. Johanna was forever a morphine addict. Gale and Katniss both left on bad terms. Effie showed up at the very end. Haymitch sat mostly in the background. Prim perishes in the airstrike unbeknown to Katniss until it is too late. I think the pacing of the plot didn’t help much, but I still didn’t mind having some characters show some sides we haven’t seen from them.
Regardless of my criticism, I enjoyed the entire journey of Katniss from beginning to end. From the start of the 74th Hunger Games, to the Quarter Quell, to the harsh realities of living under a totalitarian dictatorship, to honoring Rue during the Victory Tour, and Katniss being a definitive symbol of the rebellion. I would have liked to story to have continued, but it ended in a way that I think needed to anyway. In future books, writings, or movies, I would love to know more about the other victors such as Finnick, Johanna, Beatee, Annie, Mags, and others who I did not mention in my reviews. There is a lot of story content that can be told from each of their point of views. May the odds be ever in your favor!
TOTAL SCORE: 4.00/5.00