Peeta has just requested that the mission kill him. He’s a danger to Katniss, he argues, and should be “taken care of” immediately—he’s already caused the death of a rebel soldier. Katniss insists that Peeta must stay alive, and that he’s important to their mission’s success.
While it’s refreshing to hear Katniss telling Peeta that he deserves to live, it’s a little disheartening to hear her rationalize her decision in such bloodless terms: she’s suggesting that, if Peeta becomes useless to the mission, then he does indeed have no reason to stay alive.
The group takes up shelter in an abandoned apartment building. There they find food and water, and everyone has dinner. The soldiers are leery of Peeta. He is handcuffed, and at least three soldiers are required to watch him at all times. There is a television in the apartment, and later in the night the group sees President Coin speaking, having hijacked the Capitol’s TV station once again. Coin eulogizes Katniss and reaffirms her status as a symbol of the rebellion, “dead or alive.”
This is a disturbing moment, if only because it proves that Coin doesn’t need Katniss alive—Katniss is just as good a symbol for the rebel cause dead as she is alive. Indeed, Katniss is in many ways better for the rebels as a martyr—so much love and support has been built up around her that her death can only serve to turn more of the districts against Snow—and her death would remove her as a future rival for Coin.
The next day, the group plans its next move, consulting the Holo for help. Finnick and Gale agree that, since the area above ground is highly dangerous, the best course of action is to proceed underground through mines and tunnels. Peeta again insists that he should be shot, as he’s a danger to the mission. While Jackson wants to take Peeta along, Katniss is tempted to kill him, but she can’t force herself to murder her friend.
Again, Collins’s description of Katniss’s decision to spare Peeta’s life is quite chilling: Katniss spares Peeta’s life on the grounds that she’s friends with him, but she seems almost annoyed with herself for being incapable of giving the “necessary” order. We’re reminded of how thoroughly the Hunger Games have affected Katniss.
The group decides to travel through the vast network of tunnels beneath the Capitol. Pollux explains that his brother worked in the tunnels for many years. Peeta finds this news very encouraging, and Katniss notices a brief “flash “ of his former self. Together, the group moves through the tunnels quickly, heading for the center of the Capitol where President Snow lives.
This expository section sets the scene for many of the ensuing chapters, and presents us with a tense, claustrophobic environment, full of sudden surprises—similar to the Hunger Games arenas of the past two novels.
Katniss notices that Peeta is having trouble proceeding through the tunnel, due to his conditioning and the injuries he’s sustained in the previous few days. She offers him food and water, and he is touched. He asks Katniss if it is “real or not real” that she’s protecting him, and she insists that it is real. Shortly afterwards, they hear a “hissing” sound in the distance. Throughout the tunnels, Katniss realizes, the word “Katniss” is echoing.
Katniss and Peeta seem to be recovering together. Just as Peeta is gradually learning to love Katniss once again, Katniss is learning to love Peeta independently of the government’s propaganda, and apart from the sociopathic coldness she’s acquired while competing in the Hunger Games.