Even though she is still angry with Haymitch about lying to her during the Quarter Quell, Katniss knows he is right about her appearance on camera. Haymitch asks each rebel to suggest a time when Katniss inspired him or her. These moments have one thing in common: they are unscripted. A new plan forms: Katniss must be filmed while she is actually on the battlefield. After the meeting, Katniss and Haymitch speak privately. They each feel angry and responsible for Peeta's capture. Later, Katniss scrubs off her makeup and rips off her armband, feeling more like herself. Boggs then takes Katniss to the Hangar, where she will join Gale, Haymitch, and Plutarch on a hovercraft bound for District 8.
Plutarch explains to Katniss that all the districts are at war with the Capitol except for District 2, which is the Capitol's new center of defense. The goal of the rebellion is to take over the districts one by one, cutting off all the Capitol's resources and leaving it vulnerable to invasion. Plutarch dreams about a democratic reorganization of Panem, but Haymitch thinks he is being overly idealistic. Before the hovercraft lands, Plutarch gives Katniss a nightlock pill - which will enable her to commit suicide if she finds herself in a desperate situation.
Katniss arrives in District 8, accompanied by her television crew (consisting of Cressida, Pollux, Castor, and Messalla) as well as Boggs, Gale, and a few soldiers. At the entrance to the makeshift hospital, Katniss is shocked as she surveys the rows upon rows of "broken human bodies" (86). Boggs introduces Katniss to the matter-of-fact Commander Paylor, who escorts the crew inside. Katniss holds on to Gale for comfort. Just when she thinks she might fall apart, some of the patients start to rally around Katniss, excited to see their hero. "The sight of [her], alive... is the inspiration" (90). She realizes that she has been the Mockingjay since her act of rebellion in her first Hunger Games - long before the role had a name.
After they leave the hospital, the alarms signal an incoming raid. Haymitch and Plutarch inform Katniss via her headset that she must run to safety in a nearby bunker, making sure to remain hidden from view. Instead of hiding, though, Katniss and Gale scale the warehouse to join Commander Paylor in battle. They use their newly acquired explosive arrows to shoot at the Capitol planes, but it's not enough to save the hospital from being decimated. Cressida tells Katniss that President Snow had the bombing aired live as a message to the rebels. In response, Katniss offers her own message, undermining Peeta's call for a cease-fire and encouraging the districts to rise up and strike back against the Capitol.
Boggs drags Katniss back to a cargo hovercraft. En route, she vomits and lies on Gale's lap. She wakes up to her mother's soothing touch and a healing scar from where the shrapnel hit her leg. Despite her injuries, however, Katniss's presence is still required at Command for a morning meeting. She learns that the cameramen who risked their lives in District 8 are named Castor and Pollux (an Avox). Coin orders a screening of the propo that has aired several times since the attack on District 8. Even Katniss is impressed with her visual characterization and the violent new anti-Capitol statement: "IF WE BURN, YOU BURN WITH US." She is also relieved to learn that nobody has told Coin about her (and Gale's) flagrant disregard for the instructions to hide in the bunker.
Later, Haymitch visits Katniss in the hospital and threatens that if she does not start wearing her earpiece and listening to him, he will have to force her to. She reluctantly agrees. Meanwhile, the new propos keep airing as fast as Messalla can edit the footage and Beetee can steal airtime. In addition, Caesar Flickerman happens to be conducting a new televised interview with Peeta - and this time, the young District 12 tribute does not look so healthy. He has clearly been tortured to send Katniss a visual message along with his verbal one: to use her influence to stop the war before "it's too late." Finnick turns off Katniss's television and lies to the rebel leaders, saying that Katniss hasn't seen the interview.
Still, Katniss cannot forget Peeta's face, pleading with her and asking her if she really trusts the people she's working for. She is worried about what is happening to him while he is off camera, and blames herself for his condition. After breakfast, Katniss lashes out at Gale for not asking her if she had seen Peeta's message and accusing him of siding with Coin. She muses that she is "sick of people lying to me for my own good. Because really it's mostly for their own good" (118). That day, though, Katniss is scheduled to visit District 12. Plutarch informs her that rebels have taken over Districts 3 and 11, thus cutting off the Capitol's food supply.
Despite the good news, Katniss feels a new wave of grief when she's standing in the remains of her old house. Gale is similarly emotional, especially when the crew impedes on the woods where he and Katniss used to hunt. Inspired, she sings "The Hanging Tree," a song her father taught her, and the Mockingjays echo her voice. Everyone is filled with emotion and Plutarch is thrilled with the new footage. Cressida coaxes Katniss and Gale to share their recollections about hunting together before the war. Katniss records a message for Peeta, as well - Cressida films her addressing him at the remnants of the Mellark family's bakery. Katniss steals away to Victor's Village to pack up some of her mother's healing herbs. Gale quietly follows her and they remember their first kiss in Katniss's kitchen - leading them to kiss again.
Back in District 13, Boggs takes Katniss to an unscheduled Command meeting. On television, President Snow is about to make an announcement with a wilted Peeta by his side. As Peeta begs Katniss to call for a cease-fire, Beetee interrupts the broadcast with the most dramatic images from the brand-new District 12 footage. Peeta warns Katniss about the imminent attack on District 13, and as Beetee continues to flash images of the Mockingjay at the District 8 hospital, Peeta's blood splatters on the ground.
Now that Katniss has decided to become the Mockingjay, she still has to come to terms with what that means - both for her and for the rebellion. When she first accepts the position, Fulvia Cardew directs Katniss's makeover just like Effie Trinket once did during the Hunger Games - lots of makeup, vetted scripts, and a carefully planned lighting setup. However, in this post-Hunger Games world, the Capitol's smoke and mirrors are quickly losing their effectiveness. The rebellion is trying to shatter the Capitol's grip on the districts, and it becomes abundantly clear that the Mockingjay will also have to evolve to fit this new situation. Haymitch is ultimately the one who overturns Fulvia's strategy, pointing out that viewers relate to Katniss most when she is unscripted. Haymitch understands the mindset of the people because his life has been marred by loss - while the polished Fulvia cannot fully grasp this perspective.
Katniss has an every-girl appeal - people can see themselves in her, with her visible scars, erratic behavior, and brittle temper. In fact, they trust her because she is flawed. Jennifer Lawrence, the actress who plays Katniss Everdeen in the film adaptations of The Hunger Games, has a similar grip on popular culture. Her unfiltered comments, tumbles, and gaffes make her vulnerable, familiar. The public likes her because she feels real. While Lawrence has ridden her self-effacing affability to full-fledged movie star status, her fictional counterpart struggles to understand her power. Katniss muses, "I can't stand in a television studio wearing a costume and makeup in a cloud of fake smoke and rally the districts to victory. It's amazing, really, how long I have survived the cameras" (73). However, over the course of this section, she realizes that her mission has gone beyond simply surviving the cameras. Now, the audience is listening to her. She has influence.
To this end, Katniss's trip to District 8 serves to show her the power she truly wields. To embrace her position, she has to stop thinking like the starving girl from District 12. As is her nature, Katniss does not trust what others tell her until she's seen the truth for herself. As Katniss is about to enter the makeshift District 8 hospital, she remarks, "'This won't work...I won't be good here.'" Boggs responds, "Just let [the patients] see you. That will do more for them than any doctor in the world could" (86). Her experience inside the hospital proves Boggs's point. She realizes, "the sight of [her] alive, that is the inspiration... I was their Mockingjay long before I accepted the role...I have a kind of power I never knew I possessed"(90).
Once Katniss has realized her power, she has to learn to reconcile her guilt about the fact that at this point, her life is more valuable than anyone else's. Snow is willing to bomb countless hospitals if it means he can show that the Mockingjay is fallible. Katniss also has difficulty accepting the fact that her position means that she has little control over her own life. Thankfully, Coin remains unaware of Katniss's decision to rush into battle when District 8 was being bombed, but still points out that the rebellion cannot afford to lose the Mockingjay right now. Coin has the power to protect Katniss from harm, but she can also determine when Katniss dies. By this point, Katniss has realized that she is being strategically used by everyone around her, including Haymitch. She comments, "I'm sick of people lying to me for my own good. But really it's mostly for their own good" (118).
With Panem, Suzanne Collins has successfully created a fictional world that still has certain identifiable similarities to contemporary culture. Collins avoids overt political criticism by operating inside a universe of her own creation - which also gives readers an objective lens through which to view our own culture. Specifically, the media-strategy meetings in District 13 could very well be a control room during any political campaign. The rebellion cannot take down the Capitol without the support of all the districts. Coin, Plutarch, and Haymitch all understand that their most powerful weapon against the Capitol is not a nuke or a bomb - it's the media. This is an apt depiction of how wars are fought today - wins and losses are not determined on the battlefield, but rather, on television. For example, Lyndon Johnson's government was heavily reliant on media manipulation in order to maintain homeland support for the war effort in Vietnam, especially once it became clear that America was losing.