Seven years after The Hunger Games first debuted on bookstore shelves, the mega-successful film adaptation tetralogy comes to a close with Mockingjay – Part 2. The Mockingjay novel, which was split into two films by Lionsgate Entertainment, originally released in 2010 – meaning that book readers have known the fate of their favorite characters, and the larger state of Panem, for nearly half a decade.

While there are a few key differences between Suzanne Collins’ books and the film adaptations, we’ve put together a Hunger Games series ending explained post that, depending on a reader’s prior level of investment, will either be a refresher for returning fans, clarification for Mockingjay – Part 2 moviegoers, or cliff notes for non-viewers who have no intention of seeing the final Hunger Games movie (but still want to know how the dystopian tale wraps up). We’re here to help explain exactly what happens in the final act of Mockingjay – Part 2 as well as breakdown how prior Hunger Games films laid necessary groundwork for such an ambitious conclusion.

Our discussion is going to be full of SPOILERS for The Hunger Games films (and book) series, so READ NO FURTHER unless you’re all caught up. You have been warned.


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The Plutarch Underground

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Initially introduced in The Hungers Games (book), Plutarch Heavensbee replaces 74th Hunger Games’ gamemaker Seneca Crane when the Capitol plans the Quarter Quell – becoming a trusted confidant to President Snow in the process. Unbeknownst to Snow, Heavensbee is actually the leader of an underground resistance, Capitol residents who are sympathetic to suffering in the districts, and planning a nation-wide revolt against ruling Capitol despots. To that end, Plutarch uses his position as gamemaker to shape the Quarter Quell as a foundation for rebellion – centered on Hunger Games victor Katniss Everdeen. Plutarch tips his hand to Everdeen during the 74th Victory Tour (when he shows her his Mockingjay watch) – though the District 12 victor, still scarred from her experience in the games, is too suspicious to know Plutarch’s true intentions.

As Everdeen and the other tributes prepare for the Quarter Quell, Plutarch coordinates with District 13 president Alma Coin and District 12 victor Haymitch Abernathy, who are organizing rebels in the districts – while slyly using Katniss and Peeta’s “engagement” to distract Snow (and alter public opinion). As part of Plutarch’s plan, he enlists Abernathy to convince half of the Quarter Quell tributes to join forces against Capitol loyalist tributes to escape the Games and, most importantly, protect Katniss (who is becoming the symbol of rebellion in the districts). Many tributes give their lives in the Quarter Quell arena (Chaff, Seeder, Mags, Woof, Cecelia, the Morphlings, and Wiress) or are captured in the aftermath (Peeta and Joanna) but Plutarch’s plan succeeds – and the rebels rescue Katniss (along with Finnick and Beetee) from the arena. With his subterfuge revealed to Snow, Plutarch flees with Katniss to the ruins of District 13 in preparation for war.

NEXT PAGE: President Coin’s Plan

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Contrary to what most of Panem believes, the people of District 13 survived for years underground, led by President Alma Coin. In collaboration with Plutarch’s Underground, Coin prepares for a second rebellion against their Capitol oppressors – using propaganda films as their primary weapon. Tired of fighting and frustrated by Plutarch’s choice to save her over Peeta in the Quarter Quell, Katniss initially refuses to participate in Coin’s propaganda initiative. However, when (a brainwashed) Peeta appears on live TV, vowing support for the Capitol, Katniss agrees to Coin’s request, becoming the Mockingjay (a symbol for the rebellion), under the conditions that Coin would end the Hunger Games and that Katniss would be allowed to kill President Snow.

Unwilling to sacrifice Katniss’ safety, Coin sends the Hunger Games victor back to her former District 12 home, which had been bombed into ruin by the Capitol weeks earlier. Coin enlists Plutarch Underground “propo” filmmakers Cressida, Messalla, Castor and Pollux to follow (as well as film) Katniss throughout her journey to unseat Capitol tyrants and assassinate Snow. The propo team succeeds in their mission, helping to sway public opinion against the Capitol – rallying hold-out districts to the rebel cause in a unified assault on the Capitol. However, as victory draws closer, and the Mockingjay becomes a symbol of strength for all of the Panem, Coin begins to perceive Katniss as a threat to her personal ambitions.

President Coin’s Plan

Julianne Moore as President Coin The Hunger Games Movie Series: Mockingjay   Part 2 Ending Explained

Despite stumping for peace, Coin becomes obsessed with succeeding Snow as President of Panem – no matter the cost. With victory near-assured, Coin has nothing left to gain from Katniss and when members of the Mockingjay’s squad are cornered, and killed, by Capitol peacekeepers, Coin uses Katniss’ presumed death to address Panem, decry Snow’s actions, and unify the rebel cause against the Capitol. Katniss survives, racing to a refugee security checkpoint outside of the presidential compound where Capitol residents await rescue – passing their children to the front of the line for immediate evacuation. However, as rebels descend on the checkpoint, Capitol ships fly overhead – and drop bombs on the children. Parents and medics (including Katniss’ sister Prim) rush in to help but a second explosion is set-off – marking the end of the war.

Katniss, and the people of Panem initially believe Snow to be behind the attack – one final act of bitter violence against his own people. Yet, when Katniss confronts an exiled Snow days later in the safety of his rose garden, the disgraced President (who has never lied to Katniss despite his malevolent actions) suggests that Coin was behind bombing of the Capitol children – since the attack turned Capitol residents and peacekeepers against the President, shattering any remaining support he had in the Capitol. Katniss’ suspicions continue to grow when Coin appoints herself interim President of Panem, with no clear timeframe for when she’ll install an actual democracy, as well as reveals that she intends to hold a new Hunger Games using Capitol children (including President Snow’s granddaughter as a tribute) to help the districts “heal” from years of tyranny – and punish the Capitol for their crimes.

NEXT Page: The Ultimate Gamemaker

Plutarch: The Ultimate Gamemaker

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To her friends’ horror, Katniss agrees to participate in the opening ceremony of Coin’s new Hunger Games – where she will finally be given the chance to execute Snow. Abernathy supports Katniss’ decision, trusting that the Mockingjay has already recognized history repeating – that Coin is destined to repeat the same mistakes as Snow, a ruthless dictator willing to sacrifice innocent life in order to maintain her status and power. Instead of killing Snow, Katniss uses the opening ceremony as an opportunity to publicly assassinate Coin instead – leaving Snow to be beaten to death by an enraged Panem mob (or, in the books, choke on his own blood while laughing). Recognizing that only a select few people would know why she killed Coin not Snow, Katniss prepared to ingest a suicide “Nightlock” pill, but Peeta stripped the poison from her as she was carried away by rebel guards.

Hours later, Katniss is visited in the Capitol jail by Abernathy – who reads a letter from Plutarch. The gamemaker writes that Katniss had lived up to his expectations, hinting that Coin’s assassination was part of Plutarch’s long con – to not only wrest control from Snow and his Capitol cronies but also set the stage for a legitimate democracy. Coin was just a pawn in Plutarch’s game. Always one step ahead of everyone else in Panem, Plutarch accurately predicts that District 8’s Commander Paylor would be elected President – leading the nation to prosperity.

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Ultimately, given his methodical approach to securing democracy, it is unknown whether Plutarch had a say in bombing the Capitol children. Coin takes credit but, in the book nor the film, there is no definitive answer to prove the explosion wasn’t a move in Plutarch’s plan. Nevertheless, Plutarch aids in protecting Katniss after she kills Coin, arranging the Mockingjay’s escape from the Capitol (and safe return to District 12). Later, he would remain an advocate for Katniss – ensuring her pardon (in the movie) and acting as a witness for her defense trial (in the book series). Katniss never doubts his innocence; though, it is up to the audience to decide just how far Plutarch might have been willing to go – in order to break the cycle of tyranny that had ruled Panem for three-quarters of a century.

The Love Triangle: Katniss, Peeta, & Gale

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Plutarch may have directed the larger players in the Hunger Games series toward a fully transparent and democratic society. Yet, the Panem rebellion isn’t the only storyline that movie and book fans expected to see resolved – as Mockingjay gives a definitive answer to who Katniss ends marrying in the new Panem. Ultimately, some fans might have been rooting for childhood friend Gale in the Hunger Games love triangle; however, any chance that Katniss would be able to love Gale exploded along with the bomb that killed Prim. Following her conversation with Snow, Katniss realizes Coin’s two-detonation plot was similar to a battlefield strategy that Gale had devised earlier in the war. While Gale cannot be sure that it was his bomb that actually killed Prim and the Capitol children, Gale’s increasingly violent actions, and lack of concern for innocent life, make it impossible for Katniss to be with him.

Like the similarities between Snow and Coin’s ideologies, the conclusion to Mockingjay‘s love triangle plays on similar themes. Earlier in the book and film, Katniss kisses Gale and he dismisses her, saying he knew she would do it: “Because I’m in pain. That’s the only way I get your attention.” Katniss (both in the games and in her personal life) generally tries to avoid violence but is drawn to action when people she loves are hurting. It’s the reason she volunteers as a tribute in place of her sister for the 74th Annual Games. Later, in the arena, Katniss refrains from killing until Marvel mortally injures two-year-old Rue – and Katniss fires an arrow into his neck in return.

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The theme comes full circle in the end when Katniss uses an arrow to assassinate Alma Coin (who was directly responsible for Prim’s death). In the book’s epilogue, Katniss admits that after the rebellion both she and Gale were too obsessed with rage and retribution to be a healthy couple. Choosing Gale would have only stimulated her own anger but Peeta balanced out that anger with continued cool-headedness and pacifism.

MORE: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 Review

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is now playing in theaters.