After overhearing Peeta and Gale's conversation about her, Katniss wonders if they really think she is so cold and calculating. On television the next morning, the squad sees that many of the Capitol citizens have been instructed to evacuate. The Peacekeepers are assigning other Capitol citizens to take in refugee houseguests, even President Snow. Meanwhile, the search for the missing rebels has intensified. Katniss decides it's time to refocus on her mission to kill Snow. Tigris styles the squad as refugees before they set off. Cressida and Pollux are the guides, Katniss and Gale are disguised as refugees looking for shelter in Snow's mansion, and Peeta (who is finally out of his handcuffs) will create a distraction if and when it is required.
They are quickly separated in the stream of refugees and Peacekeepers. The Capitol turns into a war zone - rebels vs. Peacekeepers, with the refugees caught in the crossfire. At one point, the street opens up beneath them and Katniss finds herself dangling from the rubble. Gale is able to rescue her but in the process, the Peacekeepers capture him. He screams for Katniss to keep moving. As Katniss reaches Snow's mansion, though, she realizes that all the refugees huddled in front of it are children - a human shield to protect President Snow. A hovercraft with the Capitol's seal appears above the wall of children and drops silver parachutes down on them (usually used to distribute gifts). But these parachutes detonate - they are bombs. Katniss watches a group of rebel medics run in to help the injured children. Just as Katniss identifies Prim amongst the helpers, the rest of the parachutes detonate.
Katniss feels as though she's on fire, and then she is floating in water - ready to let go. She wakes up in a Capitol hospital, healing from her burns. Dr. Aurelius says Katniss's emotional trauma has rendered her unable to speak. Katniss learns that the Capitol has fallen and now Coin is the president of Panem. Gale, Cressida, Pollux, and Peeta are alive. After she is released, Katniss goes to live with her mother in what used to be the president's mansion. Haymitch comes to check on Katniss periodically to keep her away from the morphling. One afternoon while wandering through the mansion, Katniss comes face to face with Snow himself, who is shackled in a room full of roses. He claims that Coin, not he, sent the hovercraft - what reason would he have for killing Capitol children, especially after the war was over? Rather, Snow claims that the bombing succeeded in turning any of his remaining supporters against him. He calls President Coin's plan "brilliant" - while Snow was focused on Katniss and punishing the other districts, Coin managed to take over Panem without harming District 13.
Katniss mulls Snow's words over in his mind. She remembers Gale and Beetee designing the double-exploding bombs, and wonders why Prim was even in the Capitol in the first place. Katniss had always been the one thing Coin couldn't control, so what if killing Prim was part of her ploy to destabilize the Mockingjay? In trying to deal with the potential truth, Katniss takes some morphling and the guards find her screaming in the bathroom. After a sobering bath, Katniss is surprised to find Effie Trinket and her prep team waiting for her, ready to remake her into the Mockingjay. Gale comes to see her and give her an arrow. Katniss is supposed to fire the last shot of the war, a symbol of the rebels' victory. She realizes that she will never be able to separate Gale from the bomb he made - the one that killed her sister.
Katniss attends a meeting of the surviving victors, who have all been protected under the "Mockingjay Deal." Coin presents a plan to punish the surviving Capitol citizens: to hold a Hunger Games with their children. Peeta screams out that he does not approve, but Enobaria and Johanna agree to the plan. Annie and Beetee side with Peeta, and only Katniss and Haymitch are left. Katniss says she wants to hold the Hunger Games to avenge Prim's death. Haymitch understands her plan and agrees. They all prepare to make the announcement in the City Circle, and march Snow outside for the occasion. Katniss prepares to fire her ceremonial arrow... and uses it to kill President Coin.
Snow laughs as gray-uniformed guards drag Katniss away. She tries to clamp her teeth onto her nightlock pill, but Peeta throws it to the ground. She screams for Gale to shoot her. The guards drag Katniss into her old room at the Training Center and leave her there. Despite being sent food and morphling, Katniss is determined to let herself die. She sings the songs her father taught her and lies in that room for what seems like weeks, wondering what's taking them so long to execute her. She is filled with anger at all of humanity for being so violent and power-hungry. A few days later, Haymitch comes to bring Katniss home. Her trial is over.
Katniss is loaded into a hovercraft with Haymitch and a vibrant Plutarch, who fills her in on what's been happening. Snow died during the post-assassination ruckus. During an emergency election, Paylor was elected president and Plutarch is now secretary of communications. He also was the star witness in Katniss's trial. Dr. Aurelius argued for Katniss's insanity, which also helped. Now, Katniss is being sent back to live in what's left of District 12, as is Haymitch. Neither of them have a place in the Capitol anymore - the fighting is over. Meanwhile, Katniss's mother is starting up a hospital in District 4, so Katniss moves back into her old house in Victor's Village alone. Greasy Sae and her granddaughter visit twice a day to make food and keep house.
One morning, Katniss awakens from her usual nightmares to find Peeta planting some bushes outside her house. Dr. Aurelius released him just the day before. Peeta explains that the bushes he is planting are those of the evening primrose. This sparks a meltdown in Katniss, who throws away everything that reminds her of Snow and the Capitol and scrubs herself clean. Greasy Sae tells her that Gale got a fancy job in District 2. Regardless, Katniss claims she is going hunting. All over District 12, the dead are being reaped and dumped into a mass grave. Back home, a surprise visitor is waiting for her - it's Buttercup, also wailing at the loss of Prim. They comfort each other.
Katniss starts to heal with the remote help of Dr. Aurelius. Along with Peeta and Haymitch, Katniss puts together a book of memories about the people they have loved and lost under the Capitol's rule. They fall into their old routines: Katniss hunting, Peeta baking, Haymitch drinking. People start to populate District 12 again, and ashes give way to fields of crops. Over time, Katniss and Peeta grow back together. She comes to realize that it was not Gale's fire that she needed to survive, but Peeta's optimism and faith, "the promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again" (388). In the epilogue, Katniss describes her life with Peeta twenty years later. She eventually agreed to children for Peeta's sake, but loves them fiercely. Katniss wonders how she will tell her children (a girl and a boy) about the Hunger Games and their parents' lingering nightmares. She admits that her struggle to remain positive feels like a game sometimes, but points out, "there are much worse games to play" (398).
In this final section of The Hunger Games trilogy, all of Katniss's open questions are answered. Loyalties are determined and losses assessed as Panem (and Katniss) struggle to finish off President Snow once and for all, and then, slowly overcome the destruction of war. And despite every risk she's taken, Katniss (like the Mockingjay itself) somehow comes through it all. Suzanne Collins claims that she partially modeled Katniss on the historical figure of Spartacus, "a gladiator who broke out of the arena and led a rebellion against an oppressive government." Spartacus has since become a model for many slave revolts over time. Unlike Katniss, though, Spartacus died in battle after seeing most of his rebel army decimated on the battlefield. Katniss's experience is not quite so simple.
The loss of Prim, a symbol of Katniss's conscience and purest intentions, is the major turning point for Katniss. At first, she sees Prim's death as more fuel for her anger against Snow. But with the rebellion behind her, Katniss finally has the luxury to think about the future, and everything that has brought her (and the country) to this point. After she starts to come to her senses, Katniss realizes that Snow is harmless without his power. Killing him will not change anything now - without his title, he is just a dying man in a room filled with roses. She focuses instead on the real enemy - Coin, and her role in Prim's death and plans for despotic rule.
As Katniss struggles with her survivor's guilt, she knows that she owes it to those who gave their lives for this freedom to keep fighting for what is best for Panem. "'Everyone I trust is dead,'" she muses, "'Cinna. Boggs. Finnick. Prim'" (360). There is nobody to push her into the spotlight now. Unlike the title of Mockingjay, which was bestowed upon her, Katniss alone must decide what to do with Snow's revelation about Coin. In fact, Snow articulates the unease Katniss has been feeling all along - he shows her that as the Mockingjay, she was merely a weapon; but Coin has always held the trigger.
After killing Coin, Katniss's Hunger Games journey comes full circle. In the first Hunger Games, she was ready to eat the nightlock berries if it meant beating the Capitol at their own game. Now, she attempts to eat the nightlock pill hidden in her lapel, but Peeta stops her. Both times, Katniss performs her most courageous actions when she is willing to sacrifice her life for the betterment of others. However, both times she survives because despite having served a political purpose, the public determines that it is not her time to perish. Despite her contradictions, her survivalism, her prickly demeanor - Katniss is a leader through and through, even though she can never seem to see it. Unlike Snow or Coin, someone is always willing to stand up for her.
While Collins avoids falling into the "happily ever after" trope, some readers and critics feel that the Epilogue goes too far in the other direction. In her piece for Hollywood.com, Alexa Smail feels that future Katniss seems depressed - "a middle-aged and deep-seated 'I don't like being a mom, I lost my sister and best friend, I have PTSD, and my once exciting (terrifying) life has now become boring and tedious' type of depressed." Fans hoped that Katniss would find some more certain peace and happiness, especially after defeating Snow and ending the Hunger Games. At the end of Mockingjay, Katniss seems to have developed the maturity to see the forest through the trees, but it seems as though she's lost this perspective in the epilogue. While her losses are by no means forgettable, some readers would have liked to see Katniss more excited about her life, at least for the sake of her children. Nevertheless, Collins has constantly reminded Hunger Games readers that life is no fairy tale, and in that light, the epilogue is appropriately unapologetic.