Katniss, Boggs, and Gale fly away from District 13 in a hovercraft, headed for District 8. Their TV crew includes Cressida, the director, and Messalla, her assistant.
Katniss embarks on her “tour” of the districts, much as she embarked on her previous “Victory Tour” in Catching Fire. This symmetry reiterates how similar the Capitol and the rebel alliance really are.
The hovercraft arrives in District 8. Katniss and her crew disembark, noticing immediately that there are wounded people everywhere. Boggs points Katniss to a woman named Commander Paylor, who is probably in her early thirties. Boggs tells Paylor that Katniss has suffered a miscarriage, but insisted on seeing the wounded in District 8.
We see how easily the rebel alliance has embraced the Capitol-sponsored lie that Katniss was pregnant—they’ve had to make up an additional lie to explain away the first one. It’s not clear if Paylor is convinced by this lie or not.
Gale points out that it’s a bad idea to assemble the wounded in one place—any contagious diseases would spread almost instantly. Paylor firmly replies that she agrees with Gale, but has no other option for keeping everyone safe—at least none that President Coin would support. She leads the group inside a nearby building, where Katniss is terrified to see a vast room of wounded and suffering people. Katniss holds Gale’s hand very tightly.
Again Gale shows his perceptiveness, and Paylor is revealed to also be rational and calm in her thinking—she doesn’t let emotions cloud her judgment. This is clearly the kind of personality the rebels value. We are again reminded of the “love triangle” continuing amidst all this war and intrigue.
As Katniss walks through the room, the patients cry out her name with joy and love. Some of them grab her hands, as if she has the power to heal their diseases. After a considerable amount of this, Katniss walks out of the hospital. Gale praises her for her inspirational manner. Boggs explains that Katniss will be doing a great deal of this, as there are wounded people throughout the districts who idolize Katniss.
Katniss’s behavior in the hospital wards has overtones of Christian imagery—she’s like a Christ-figure, walking among the lepers and healing them. Katniss’s only “miracles” are her abilities to inspire hope and gratitude in other people—and yet sometimes this (a kind of placebo) is just as effective as real medical care.
Suddenly, there’s a loud sound and a shaking in the ground—the Capitol is bombing District 8. Katniss hears a voice in her ear: Haymitch is communicating with her via earpiece. Haymitch explains that she mustn’t be spotted, and that the rebels will retrieve her as soon as they can. Plutarch tells Katniss that there is a small blue house with a bunker, not too far away. Katniss refuses to run for safety. Instead, she rips the earpiece out of her ear and prepares to defend the hospital.
Katniss goes “off-script” for the first time since her mission began. This brings up a rather interesting conundrum: is her going off-script part of the script now? In other words, did Haymitch expect Katniss to throw away her earpiece and do something “heroic” for the cameras, or was he actually expecting her to follow orders and return to the hovercraft? These scenes start to raise complicated questions about authenticity.
Katniss prepares to fight the Capitol’s hovercrafts. Paylor, impressed with her courage, advises her to use her flaming arrows. Together, Katniss and Gale fire at a “V” of hovercrafts. Katniss succeeds in setting fire to the leading hovercraft’s wing, causing the “V” to lose formation. As another wave of hovercrafts approaches, Gale and Katniss switch to explosive arrows, and manage to shoot down several of the hovercrafts. Those remaining fly away, having done considerable damage to the hospital.
Katniss and Gale put Beetee’s weaponry to use—for the time being, Katniss still assumes that the Capitol is the enemy to be destroyed, and the rebels are to be helped. It’s also worth noting that Katniss and Gale are shooting at hovercrafts, presumably identical to those that bombed District 12. Thus, there’s a strong element of revenge in their defense of District 8.
Katniss races toward the hospital, closely followed by her TV crew. Inside, she finds chaos: the bombings have killed many patients. Cressida quietly asks Katniss if she’d like to say anything—to her own surprise, Katniss answers that she would. She proudly tells the patients that President Snow can torture and hurt the people of District 8, but he’ll never stop the people’s rebellion. She points to the hovercraft she’s shot down, and yells, “Fire is catching!” The people cheer, and Cressida yells, “Cut!”
At moments like this, it’s impossible for us to tell—and impossible for Katniss to tell—if what we’re seeing is “real” or “just TV.” In other words, we can’t be sure if Katniss was able to make a speech to District 8 because it came naturally to her or if she is just getting better at performing. The line between television and reality is blurring—Katniss is becoming the Mockingjay, to the point that when she is “being herself,” sometimes she is still acting as a figurehead and symbol.