Katniss is shocked and hurt by what she’s just heard Gale tell Peeta about her. Gale has implied that Katniss acts out of cold calculation, not love, and yet Katniss wonders if Gale might not have a point—she really does put her own survival first and foremost.
Just as Peeta’s accusations that Katniss was responsible District 12’s bombing hurt Katniss because she believed them, so Gale’s statement is especially hurtful because Katniss can see the truth in it.
The next morning, Katniss is still thinking about Gale’s words. Nevertheless, she’s distracted by Beetee’s latest “hijack”—he’s aired a broadcast on Capitol TV about how the rebels are currently marching to the Capitol, and will probably arrive very soon.
Even as Katniss’s plan to kill Snow falls apart, the machinery of the rebel cause moves on: Beetee is still in charge of propaganda, and seems to be doing an excellent job of getting the rebel message out.
Katniss looks outside and notices a huge group of refugees from the other districts who have come to the Capitol in search of food and shelter. As she stares, Tigris volunteers to scope out the area around President Snow’s mansion. She leaves the shop for a long time, and the group is worried that she’s been arrested. But after fix or six hours, she returns with hot food, which Katniss and her friends eagerly eat. Over dinner, they watch television, which is showing footage of Capitol residents taking in refugees from other parts of Panem.
The television footage that Katniss and her friends watch here is clearly designed to build support for the Capitol by presenting it as compassionate and friendly to all districts. Evidently, Snow is trying to sway his districts on the grounds that the government will treat people better than the rebels will—but it may be too late, as before now he has focused all his attention on Katniss.
The next day, Tigris equips Katniss and the rest of the mission with elaborate clothes that conceal their weapons—bows and arrows. Peeta praises her designs, and Tigris blushes with pride. The group thanks Tigris and leaves her shop. It’s extremely cold outside and they’re grateful to be wearing such well-made clothing.
Tigris plays a crucial part in Katniss’s mission, though it seems that Tigris acts more out of bitterness than compassion. It’s no coincidence, however, that the only person in the Capitol to help Katniss is herself a social outcast. Most of the time, the Capitol breeds shallow, superficial people who are unwilling to see injustice because their own lives are so luxurious.
As the group walks through the street, shouts break out. Katniss realizes that the rebels have arrived at the Capitol and begun fighting the Peacekeepers there. Nevertheless, she doesn’t join the fight, knowing that she needs to appear to be a civilian for long enough to approach Snow’s mansion. Suddenly, Katniss hears gunshots nearby—there is a massive riot, and Peacekeepers have been summoned to suppress it. In the confusion, Katniss loses sight of Peeta, Cressida, and Pollux. She and Gale run away from the riot.
Katniss becomes separated from her fellow soldiers. The future arc of the plot now seems clear: it’s time for Katniss to go out on her own, find Snow, and kill him. Collins is, in short, setting us up for a big climax in the Capitol.
Gale and Katniss run toward President Snow’s mansion. There is another gunshot, and Katniss and Gale see that they’ve unwittingly run toward another group of Peacekeepers, who open fire on both of them. Katniss and Gale get separated, and Katniss turns to see that the Peacekeepers have apprehended Gale. He mouths something to Katniss, which she’s unable to interpret. Only when she’s run away from the Peacekeepers does she realize that Gale had mouthed “shoot me”—he recognizes that the government will torture him to find out what he knows about the rebellion.
In this important moment, we see that Gale really is willing to give up his life if he thinks it will help the rebel cause. Previously, Gale had justified his callousness on the grounds that he’s equally unconcerned with his own life, but here he backs up his words with action. He may be cold and unfeeling, but at least he’s not a hypocrite.
As Katniss weeps for Gale, she hears cries of, “The rebels!” and realizes that they’ve broken through the Peacekeepers’ forces. She looks up to see a Capitol hovercraft dropping parachutes onto the crowd. Children run toward the parachutes, eager for care and nourishment—only to find that the parachutes contain bombs. The bombs detonate, killing thousands. Almost immediately a wave of sympathetic people and experienced medics rush in to take care of the children. Katniss realizes that one of the sympathetic people is Prim, her own sister. Then she watches, horrified, as a second, more powerful bomb goes off, killing everyone nearby.
The spectacle of the two bombs is eerily familiar, as Collins set it up with Beetee’s explanation many chapters ago. It’s also worth recognizing how thoroughly Collins has dashed our expectations. We’d assumed that she was building up to a big climax in which Katniss would find and kill President Snow. Instead, we’re given a shocking, unexpected scene in which Katniss accumulates new traumas, a beloved character is killed—Prim, who started the plot of the first novel—and President Snow is still alive and well.