In the ninth chapter of Mockingjay, Gale and Katniss return to District 12 to film another propos and be reminded how awful their lives are. Then: PEETA WTF. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Mockingjay.
These chapters are getting much, much longer, right? And there’s also no hope in sight, right? Because man, this shit is getting dark. I cannot begin to feel remotely prepared for what Collins has planned for the remaining two-thirds of this novel; if she’s sowing the seeds for her endgame, aside from Peeta’s speech, I can’t seem to pick up what might happen in Mockingjay.
I wouldn’t have expected that Finnick and Katniss would end up so close. This chapter opens with the two of them taking the opportunity to head out to the woods. (Gale was busy working for Beetee, so Finnick took his place.) There, Katniss gets the chance to speak openly about seeing Peeta’s broadcast the night before. The scary thing is that no one is talking about it. Katniss isn’t naïve; she knows everyone else had to see it, so why has no one decided to talk to her about it? Why are people purposely avoiding the topic?
This chapter helps solidify the way those in charge here in District 13 treat Katniss as if she’s a child or if she’s too “fragile” to handle what’s going on. I know that she’s been through a lot of trauma, but it’s kind of awful how little credit these people give her. She just survived TWO Hunger Games and blew up a hovercraft with an arrow. Trust her for HALF A SECOND.
It’s unfortunate that Finnick is the only one to give her this sort of respect. The next day, things are tense between Gale and Katniss; Gale has also been ignoring the topic as well. At breakfast, she finally confronts him about this reality.
Our eyes lock, and I realize how furious I am with Gale. That I don’t believe for a second that he didn’t see Peeta’s propo. That I feel completely betrayed that he didn’t tell me about it. We know each other too well for him not to read my mood and guess what has caused it.
“Katniss—“ he begins. Already the admission of guilt is in his tone.
I grab my tray, cross to the deposit area, and slam the dishes onto the rack.
Is it weird that my first thought was, I HOPE YOU ATE ALL YOUR FOOD, KATNISS, PLEASE DON’T WASTE IT.
But this is an argument on which I side entirely on the side of Katniss, despite that maybe her reaction is a bit much.
“I’m sorry. All right? I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to tell you, but everyone was afraid that seeing Peeta’s propo would make you sick,” he says.
“They were right. It did. But not quite as sick as you lying to me for Coin.” At that moment, his communicuff starts beeping. “There she is. Better run. You have things to tell her.”
For a moment, real hurt registers on his face. Then cold anger replaces it. He turns on his heel and goes. Maybe I haven been too spiteful, not given him enough time to explain. Maybe everyone is just trying to protect me by lying to me. I don’t care. I’m sick of people lying to me for my own good.
Good for you, Katniss. She expects this from everyone but Gale, so I’m glad she calls him out. Harshly, yes, but it needed to be done.
Then it’s time for AWKWARD CITY. Because right after this, Katniss finds out she is traveling with Gale back to District 12 to shoot more footage. You know, I get that the need to do this to win the war, but surely District 12 is the most uniquely triggering place they could possibly take them to, right? It makes me wonder what they’ll do with them after the war is over. There is some good news, though, as Plutarch informs them that the rebels have actually taken Districts 3 and 11. But it’s not enough hope to mop up the rainstorm of sad and depressing that falls down on us.
It’s not until we land in the Meadow that I realize Haymitch isn’t among our company. When I ask Plutarch about his absence, he just shakes his head and says, “He couldn’t face it.”
“Haymitch? Not able to face something? Wanted a day off, more likely,” I say.
“I think his actual words were ‘I couldn’t face it without a bottle,’” says Plutarch.
Well, shit. I know Katniss is being mean to him (COMPLETELY JUSTIFIED, DUDE IS A DICK TO HER), but I think it is pretty sad that Haymitch can’t even return to his home anymore.
Of course, the first place the TV crew takes Katniss is to her DESTROYED HOME. Cressida tells her to do “whatever you feel like” and Katniss simply zones out. It’s a short moment, but it’s one full of a lot of pain. It irritates me that the rebels in District 13 are using her for all of this. Yes, Katniss has consented to it, but what other choice does she have?
It seems even worse for Gale, who is also asked to visit the remains of his house as well. But instead of standing in silence, Cressida begins to interrogate him about what happened on the night of the bombing and even asks him to reenact it. THEN. THEN. To make matters work, they take them to the house by the lake, which, to Katniss, is about the only sacred, meaningful place left in her district. It’s there that they decide to take a break, the heat overwhelming them, and Katniss begins to communicate with Pollux, an Avox on the crew who escaped the Capitol.
I’m not a big fan of singing in novels because I can’t hear the song, but this scene is FANTASTIC. It’s cheesy, sure, but it’s such an understated moment of peace for these characters. It’s also great to be reminded what the mockingjay means to the people in Panem and especially to Katniss.
We hadn’t had a flashback in a long time either, and we get small pieces of Katniss’s past with her father when he was still live. She chooses to sing a song called “The Hanging Tree” for Pollux, as an example of how the mockingjays can repeat melodies back to people. This song is one her mother was upset over when she sang it as a child and her father had to console her. For Katniss, this song represents her positive feelings towards her father, someone she lost long ago. I found it evocative that it was here in the woods, out by the lake, her life torn apart by the Capitol, that she takes the opportunity to pull out a positive memory and share it in her own way with Pollux.
As I glance sideways, I see Castor has been taping me. Everyone is watching me intently. And Pollux has tears running down his cheeks because no doubt my freaky song has dredged up some terrible incident in his life. Great. I sigh and lean back against the trunk. That’s when the mockingjays begin their rendition of “The Hanging Tree.” In their mouths, it’s quite beautiful. Conscious of being filmed, I stand quietly until I hear Cressida call, “Cut!”
THANKS FOR RUINING THE MOMENT, CRESSIDA.
They head to Gale and Katniss’s old hunting rendezvous and it’s there that Katniss chooses to do something incredibly mature, something deserving of all the high fives.
There’s no District 12 to escape from now, no Peacekeepers to trick, no hungry mouths to feed. The Capitol took away all of that, and I’m on the verge of losing Gale as well. The glue of mutual need that bonded us so tightly together for all those years is melting away. Dark patches, not light, show in the spaces between us. How can it be that today, in the face of 12’s horrible demise, we are too angry to even speak to each other?
Thus, Katniss decides, even though she’s entirely in the right, to make sure that she keeps Gale on her side.
My fingers encircle a blackberry and pluck it from its stem. I roll it gently between my thumb and forefinger. Suddenly, I turn to him and toss it in his direction. “And may the odds—“ I say. I throw it high so he has plenty of time to decide whether to knock it aside or accept it.
Gale’s eyes train on me, not the berry, but at the last moment, he opens his mouth and catches it. He chews, swallows, and there’s a long pause before he says “—be ever in your favor.” But he does say it.
It’s a small sign, but it’s there. They have to stick together. (I still expect Gale to apologize.) Speaking of sticking together, Katniss records a particularly heartbreaking message for Peeta:
“Peeta, this is your home. None of your family has been heard of since the bombing. Twelve is gone. And you’re calling for a cease-fire?” I look across the emptiness. “There’s no one left to hear you.”
Ok, I totally understand why Katniss then decides to go to the Victor’s Village alone, but why does her team let her? It seems a bit too risky given what’s going on. Anyway, she goes to her old house she lived in before the second Hunger Games and starts to pack objects they left behind. Gale surprises her inside and then it’s back to AWKWARD TOWN again.
“Remember?” he asks. “This is where you kissed me.”
Oh, boy. So we’re going to talk about this right now?
“Maybe I’ll be like that man in ‘The Hanging Tree.’ Still waiting for an answer.” Gale, who I have never seen cry, has tears in his eyes.
UGH NO. PLEASE DON’T CRY. I DON’T LIKE CRYING.
To keep them from spilling over, I reach forward and press my lips against his. We taste of heat, ashes, and misery. It’s a surprising flavor for such a gentle kiss. He pulls away first and gives a wry smile. “I knew you’d kiss me.”
“How?” I say. Because I didn’t know myself.
“Because I’m in pain,” he says. That’s the only way I get your attention.” He picks up the box. “Don’t worry, Katniss. It’ll pass.”
The burn. IT BURNS.
Man, JUST WHEN THEY WERE GOING TO BE OK. I guess that there’s a part of me that understands Gale, to an extent. He is kind of right. Not entirely. I don’t think it’s fair at all to expect Katniss to do much of anything beyond what she’s doing to help District 13. I mean, she is CLEARLY occupied with other matters, right?
UGH THIS IS ALL TOO COMPLICATED. MY HEAD.
It’s all too complicated for Katniss too. She sleeps upon returning to her home, wakes up for breakfast, and goes back to sleep in a supply closet. I suppose for her, it’s how she copes with how overwhelming this all is. Boggs manages to catch after her closet nap to tell her that there’s an urgent meeting in Command.
There, we get to see Beetee’s work: he is going to attempt to interrupt a live Capitol broadcast. President Snow himself leads the transmission, with Peeta off to the side, who begins to speak about his desire to see a cease-fire. That’s when Beetee’s first clip makes it through and the reaction is electric.
I didn’t think Beetee would be alive post-Catching Fire and it’s great to see him doing work like this now. He continues to assault and hijack the airwaves with the propos they had filmed the day before.
Plutarch’s in spasms of delight and most everybody is cheering Beetee on, but Finnick remains still and speechless beside me. I meet Haymitch’s eyes from across the room and see my own dread mirrored back. The recognition that with every cheer, Peeta slips even farther from our grasp.
Another sign that for those in charge, victory is essentially, even if it means losing Peeta. The chaos builds on screen and while many in Command are celebrating, Peeta guarantees that shit has gotten so real:
“Katniss…how do you think this will end? What will be left? No one is safe. Not in the Capitol. Not in the districts. And you…in Thirteen…” He inhales sharply, as if fighting for air; his eyes look insane. “Dead by morning!”
WAIT WHAT THE FUCK HOW DOES HE KNOW WHERE SHE IS WHAT THE FUCK
Off camera, Snow orders, “End it!” Beetee throws the whole thing into chaos by flashing a still shot of me standing in front of the hospital at three-second intervals. But between the images, we are privy to the real-life action being played out on the set. Peeta’s attempt to continue speaking. The camera knocked down to record the white tiled floor. The scuffle of boots. The impact of the blow that’s inseparable from Peeta’s cry of pain.
And his blood as it spatters the tiles.