Katniss has just heard Haymitch’s voice coming from the studio where she’s been recording slogans for the rebel cause. The last time Katniss saw Haymitch, she was so angry with him for abandoning Peeta in the Hunger Games that she scratched his face. Hearing his voice, she leaves the studio immediately.
Given the usual “cliffhanger” tension at the ending of the previous chapter, we naturally expect there to be a confrontation between Katniss and Haymitch at this point. But this scene is delayed, as Katniss merely leaves.
The narrative jumps ahead one day. Katniss explains that it takes Haymitch an entire morning to convince the rebel leaders that Katniss isn’t fit to be Mockingjay. Katniss privately agrees with Haymitch—she was only capable of making grand speeches and “working” crowds earlier because she had Peeta to help her.
For all his gruffness and occasional heartlessness, Haymitch knows Katniss better than almost anyone else. He’s worked with her since the beginning, and knows that public speaking isn’t one of her strong points.
Katniss explains how Haymitch convinced the rebel leaders of Katniss’s limitations. Katniss enters Command, along with Plutarch, Fulvia, Gale, and her prep team. She’s surprised to see Haymitch, along with a few people from District 12, including Greasy Sae. This is the first time Katniss has been in Haymitch’s presence, she realizes, since she scratched his face. Haymitch begins the meeting by showing everyone footage of Katniss in the studio the previous day. She seems stiff and awkward.
Here we’re again deprived of a full confrontation between Katniss and Haymitch. Katniss thinks about clawing Haymitch’s face, but she doesn’t say anything to him, and in return he seems almost oblivious to her presence. He probably senses her anger, but feels that there are more important matters to attend to before a personal squabble.
Haymitch asks the rebel leaders to name a single time when Katniss inspired them. Before too long, they come up with examples: when she volunteered to take her sister’s place in her first Hunger Games; when she mourned the death of Rue, a contestant in the first Hunger Games; when she saved Peeta’s life. Gale realizes what Haymitch is getting at—Katniss is at her most charismatic when she goes off-script.
Haymitch again shows his great understanding of Katniss’s strengths and weaknesses. Negligent though he might be, he’s something of a father figure to Katniss—a former competitor in the Hunger Games who understands what Katniss was going through before, during, and after the competition.
Haymitch proposes that the best way for the rebels to make use of Katniss is for them to send Katniss “out in the field and keep the cameras rolling.” Plutarch seconds this idea, reasoning that they can spread word that Katniss, who is supposedly pregnant with Peeta’s child, has had a miscarriage. Coin seems to like the idea of sending Katniss out into danger, but only a small amount of danger. She suggests sending Katniss, accompanied by bodyguards, into District 8, which has been experiencing riots. There, Katniss can “test” her charisma, with a camera crew filming her actions.
Haymitch’s idea seems almost suicidal, as actual battlegrounds never remain “on-script”, and yet it also makes sense. It’s absolutely true, based on the previous two novels of the trilogy, that Katniss is at her best in crisis (and is also extremely lucky). Thus, the rebel alliance has a definite interest in putting Katniss into danger. Coin is also thinking rather heartlessly again, probably assuming that even if Katniss is killed, she’ll at least be a martyr for the cause and then no future threat to Coin.
With most of the rebel leaders convinced of Haymitch’s plan, Haymitch turns to Katniss herself. Katniss can’t prevent herself from saying what she’s been thinking all along: she’s furious with Haymitch for letting Peeta be captured. Haymitch replies that he can’t believe Katniss let Peeta out of her sight on the night they broke out of the arena. Katniss knew Haymitch would say this—she’s been feeling guilty about this very mistake for the past few weeks. Haymitch reminds Katniss that he’s still her mentor, and Katniss doesn’t reply. She leaves the room immediately.
Here, Collins finally gives us the personal confrontation between Katniss and Haymitch that she’s been putting off, and yet again it is cut short by Katniss leaving. Both characters are extremely blunt and stubborn, which means that they fight often but also understand each other. We’re reminded of another dimension of Katniss’s guilt—not only has she let rebels die on her behalf, but she also left her good friend and love interest, Peeta, to be imprisoned following the Hunger Games.
Katniss goes to her room, where she washes the makeup off her body. Shortly thereafter, Beetee arrives with armor, which she’ll wear during her time “in the field.” He also supplies her with special arrows, some of which are explosive. Boggs, Coin’s strong, muscular assistant, enters the room, accompanied by Finnick. Beetee tells Finnick that he’s to have a new trident—this seems to cheer Finnick up almost immediately, and Katniss recognizes the same energy and enthusiasm in him that she first noticed at the Hunger Games.
Previously, it had seemed a little insensitive that Beetee would think a mere trident could cheer up Finnick. Yet here, it turns out that he was right all along: Finnick really does want to get back into “the thick of it” and fight the government. This is rather depressing, though: like Katniss, Finnick is so used to combat at this point that he can’t really live without it—he only knows how to fight violence with more violence.
Boggs leads Katniss to a fleet of hovercrafts. Katniss notices that Boggs seems good-natured, even if he’s also very loyal to Coin. She’s infuriated, however, to see all the hovercrafts—their existence means that District 13 had the ability to protect the other districts of Panem, and chose not to do so.
Katniss is cooperating with District 13 for now, yet she doesn’t see the world in the same black and white terms as President Coin or Gale. Katniss is starting to see the “gray areas” both between the Capitol and District 13, and between good and evil, heroism and villainy.
Plutarch briefs Katniss, who’s accompanied by Gale, on her mission. There are multiple wars going on between the Capitol and the 12 districts, with the exception of District 2. While there are some rebels in District 2, conditions are better, and the majority of people are loyal to the government—in fact, they even train and supply the Peacekeepers (government soldiers) that are sent throughout the rest of Panem. The rebels plan to take over the 11 rebel districts, ultimately claiming District 2 and the Capitol as well. Gale asks what kind of government the rebels will install to replace the current one. Plutarch replies that there will be a system of representative democracy, in which each District has a leader who participates in a centralized government. Katniss finds this kind of government superior to President Snow’s.
Gale’s question about District 13’s future government is a good one—so good that one wonders why Katniss didn’t think to ask it before. Gale may be a little too cold and calculating in his reasoning, but he also has a way of getting to the point quickly. We learn here that District 13 plans to install a democracy—technically a representative democracy, or republic—in Panem. While democracy isn’t inherently good, it is clearly better than the dictatorship and surveillance state Snow has set up in Panem.
Plutarch wishes Katniss good luck on her mission. Before he returns to the rebel stronghold, he points out a small pocket on Katniss’s shoulder. This pocket, he explains, contains “nightlock,” a powerful poison that he instructs Katniss to take if she’s apprehended by the government. He notes that these pills have been dubbed “nightlock” in honor of Katniss’s threat to poison herself with nightlock berries in her first Hunger Games.
The chapter ends on a mixed note. The nightlock poison capsules are both an homage to Katniss’s fame and prestige in the rebel community and a reminder that Katniss is ultimately expendable to the rebels—if she’s arrested by the Capitol, she needs to kill herself immediately rather than give away their secrets.