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The Districts, the Capitol & Peeta Mellark: The Hunger Games Primer You Need

“Start simple, start with what you know is true. My name is Katniss Everdeen, I live in District 12. I was in the Hunger Games, I escaped. Peeta was left behind.” So begins The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, the precursor to the upcoming final installment in the wildly successful franchise following the driven and intense Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) as she battles the powers in the Capitol, run by the fear mongering President Snow. A lot has happened for Katniss since she first stepped foot in the Hunger Games ring years ago, and as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 prepares its premiere in theaters this Friday, the series is due for an inevitably shocking finale. In order to prepare for the film, which will pick up right where the Mockingjay – Part 1 left off, here’s a quick roundup of what’s been going on for Panem: including the 13 districts, the reprogrammed Peeta and the dread President Snow, since the series’ start.

Based on the successful YA series by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games takes place in a post-apocalyptic vision of North America, where the country is divided up into thirteen districts, united under a totalitarian regime known The Capitol. Each year, to prevent uprisings and promote cooperation, The Capitol holds the Hunger Games, a deadly competition where two members from each district are pitted against each other in a fight to the death. In The Hunger Games, we meet Katniss and her family, including her beloved sister Primrose (Willow Shields) and her best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth). When Primrose is chosen to compete in the games, Katniss volunteers to go in her place and is chosen along with Katniss’ would-be paramour Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) to represent District 12 in the games. What proceeds is a harrowing fight, in which 24 tributes must fight to become the sole victor of the games. But when Katniss cheats the system, causing the Capitol to allow both Peeta and Katniss to win the games, she captures the attention of the entire nation as a signifier of revolution against the totalitarian Capitol, as well as nabbing the attention of the malevolent President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire picks up where the last left off, finding Katniss and Peeta living in District 12 and forced to keep up appearances as a loving couple, only to find themselves targeted again. Spurred by her choice to defy the Capitol in the previous years’ games, the nation has taken up Katniss and her Mockingjay pin as a sign of the revolution. Threatened by the potential political disruption, President Snow compels the two to compete in another Hunger Games, in which the previous victors are pitted against one another. Peeta and Katniss return to the arena, meeting fellow victors Johanna Mason (Jena Malone) and Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), who collectively work to bring down the system rather than be forced to play the deadly game. This displeases the Capitol, which responds by kidnapping Finnick’s girlfriend Annie, Johanna and Peeta, leaving Katniss and Finnick distraught.

Proving that Katniss’ actions have not just been noticed by the Capitol, snowy haired President Coin (Julianne Moore), the leader of the Districts uprising, brings Katniss along with Finnick, her mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and the previous games-director Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour-Hoffman) together to develop a united front against the threat of the Capitol’s imposition.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is the entries’ darkest yet, finding Katniss reunited with her family and Gale in the rebels’ stronghold after Peeta’s kidnapping and the Capitol’s vicious destruction of Katniss’ home in District 12. Sensing the shift in tides, the Capitol makes all images of the Mockingjay forbidden to possess, promising that “for those who ignore the warnings of history, prepare to pay the ultimate price.” At the stronghold, Katniss witnesses an increasingly malnourished and vacant Peeta speaking out against the revolution and calling for a ceasefire, leading her to suspect his mistreatment at the Capitol. Struggling to adhere to the imposed vision of the Revolution, Katniss must create inspiring propaganda to rally the Districts, with the help of director Cressida (Natalie Dormer), Heavensbee and President Coin.

Among those left alive at the end of the Part 1 is Effie (Elizabeth Banks), the notoriously flighty but surprisingly loyal stylist for Katniss, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), the charming, alcoholic victor and President Alma Coin, whose campaign towards rebellion has begun to shift its eyes towards the Capitol’s principle military stronghold in the ravines in District 2. Katniss’ mother and Prim are alive and well, and Prim is beginning study to become a doctor. President Snow, whose blanket fear campaign is beginning to show its holes, is alive and carrying out a campaign of fear and hope eradication. Plutarch Heavensbee, Cressida, Finnick and Gale, are now active parts in the revolution.  The visionary Cinna has been certainly killed by the Capitol, as well as the previous Game Maker Seneca Crane. Johanna Mason, Annie Cresta (Stef Dawson) and Peeta Mellark have been rescued from the Capitol, as per Coin’s promise, but Peeta remains incredibly compromised, as the psychological torture from the Capitol has left him programmed against Katniss and the revolution.

Among the districts actively participating in the rebellion is District 5, who launched an attack against the Capitol’s main source of electricity and District 7, which took aim against a group of Peacekeepers. District 13 stands as the attacked but still functional stronghold for the rebellion. District 12 remains desolate after its destruction at the end of Catching Fire, and District 8 remains weakened after a horrible attack on a hospital in Part 1. District 2 is the next target for the revolution, as 13 creeps toward the Capitol stronghold. The future looks ever-uncertain for the Capitol, as public opinion and rebellion reaches an all-time high, but President Snow continues his campaign of fear and violence even as the revolution closes in.

Part 2 promises answers to countless questions including the now-violent Peeta’s future, the direction of the revolution and President Snow’s ultimate fate. But even though the final chapter promises an end to the fighting, it’s difficult to say that what shakes out could be anything you could call a victory. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 hits theaters Friday.

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