Let’s Watch Catching Fire pt. 4

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In the last installment of Let’s Watch Catching Fire our noble tributes ran away from evil fog. This time:

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Scary monkeys!

During the ensuing monkey brawl OHD is about to be attacked when one of the two Tributes who are good at hiding jumps out from cover and shields him, getting her neck bitten open in the process. Man, a lot of the people in this free for all death match seem to be throwing their lives away in Katniss and OHD’s vicinity and/or trying to keep them alive for no apparent reason.

I wonder if something strange is going on here.

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The escape from the monkeys brought our heroes back to the beach at the middle of the island (they seem to have wisely decided to stay out of the jungle). While they’re resting and Katniss and OHD are making moon eyes at each other they hear someone screaming in the distance. A few seconds later a gigantic tidal wave comes roaring through one of the other sections.

You know, a lot of these traps don’t seem very survivable. The tidal wave looks as if it’s moving far too quickly to run away from, and I can’t imagine how you’d escape it unless you happened to be perched in a tall tree at the time.

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They meet up with the two Tech Tributes and the woman who took her clothes off in the elevator, who I will name Axe-Woman because she uses an axe. Apparently they just escaped from a rain of blood, which sounds quite unpleasant.

Nerves are frayed and an argument breaks out between Katniss and Axe Woman, who blurts out that she “got them [the tech duo] out for you”. Katniss is naturally baffled by this but concludes that she had expressed a desire to have the duo as allies, so Axe-Woman decided to bring them to her.

Yeah that must be it, no way is there an elaborate ruse going on that they’re just not telling you about for some reason.

(Finnick also immediately runs to Axe Woman with no apparent concern that she’s going to kill him, which further suggests that shenanigans are afoot and these people have worked out some sort of plan in advance)

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Tech Bro has some sort of wire roll. I’m sure it will be important later.

Tech Sister has been saying “tick tock” over and over again, which turns out to be a clue to the clock-based trap rotation thing I described earlier (which I actually got wrong– one trap triggers every hour). The first trap that activates is a massive lightning strike at the twelve o’clock section, and it seems Tech Bro has some sort of plan involving it.

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AND THEN SUDDENLY

DEATH

While everyone else is talking this dude sneaks up and murders Tech Sister, so Katniss kills him.

Earlier I commented that Mags’ death seemed surprising and abrupt; I’m now starting to get the feeling that the story doesn’t really know what to do with a lot of these characters. Tech Sister’s only role in the plot was to give Katniss the clue about the clock, and she’s killed immediately after doing it.

Back when I was a wee person I was quite a big fan of Phillip Reeve’s Mortal Engines series (which iare now being republished using these utterly baffling covers), but I was always bothered by how in the first book Reeve kills off most of the cast toward the end in really abrupt, jarring ways. Only the two leads had any planned arc through the rest of the books, so he just had everyone else die in random accidents or as collateral damage resulting from the climactic action scene (which, to be fair, did involve future mobile-London exploding).

What we’re seeing here isn’t as bad because the deaths aren’t all bunched together, but it still feels lazy. If Tech Sister existed just to deliver this one plot morsel and then get murdered, did she need to be in the story at all?

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Anyway the murder turns out to be the opening act of an attack by the Career tributes. Plutarch orders his control team to start rotating the central island, ostensibly so the Tributes can no longer tell which trap will fire in each section. I say “ostensibly” because he gives this instruction as the battle seems to be turning against Team Katniss, and the Careers are all thrown off into the water.

On the other hand, he stops the spinning only once Katniss has been similarly hurled over the edge, which could be read as either him sneakily attempting to ensure her death or him sneakily maintaining plausible deniability. Cast your bets on which it is!

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Katniss hears Prim screaming in the jungle, but it turns out to be a “Jabberjay”, which is like a bird or something. Then another Jabberjocky starts imitating one of Finnick’s loved ones and look don’t you think you’d be slightly more skeptical about this, given that you’re on an island you know is infested with sadistic traps? I’m not saying don’t go investigate the distressing noises, but maybe be a little cautious instead of charging blindly into the murder-jungle full of genetically engineered predators and deathtraps.

Katniss manages to get Finnick to stop running around like a jackass, but he reveals the alarming fact that Jabberjaws can only copy sounds, which means the Capital presumably tortured the Tributes’ friends and family to get their voice clips.

Oh no, the Capital is eeeeeeevil. They’re even more eeeeeevil than before.

I’m sorry, but you opened with “they force kids to murder each other on live TV for the lulz”, anything else just seems like overkill.

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Some kind of forcefield traps Katniss and Finnick in with the Jibberjabbers and by the time it lifts they’re both thoroughly traumatised. Which… is a pretty devious trap, actually, attacking the Tributes psychologically instead of physically.

Axe-woman claims that “the entire country” loves Prim and that if the government did anything to her there’s be “riots in the capital”. Does the entire country love her? When did this happen? Why? Are there not cute kids in the Capital for people to fawn over?

Also have I mentioned that Axe-woman is cool? I hope she doesn’t get killed.

Tech Bro comes up with a cunning plan that involves the lightning strike trap and his wire roll (where the hell did he get that thing?) and which will hopefully result in all of the remaining Career tributes being electrocuted. I’m beginning to think this dude has a bit of a fixation, considering how he won his last Hunger Games.

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That medallion Effie gave OHD has photos of Katniss’ family in it, and also Mr. Asshole there. He tells her that she has to live for them, whereas no one needs him, blah blah blah make with the smoochy-times.

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There we go.

The Hunger Games was clearly spawned from the post-Twilight wave and shares many of the tiresome repeating elements that were endemic in YA novels of that period, but it improves on them in one important way: for all that the romance is ham-fisted and unconvincing, at least Katniss doesn’t fall in love with OHD on sight the way so many post-Twilight heroines did when they met their One True Love. There is an actual relationship here that grows over time through shared experiences, such that when we get to smoochy-times I can actually see why they like each other (although Katniss deciding to sacrifice herself for him in the first third of the movie is still total BS).

It’s an extremely low bar, but it’s one that a lot of other YA novels fail to clear.

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