Why the Ending of The Hunger Games Sucked

With The Hunger Games movie coming out this week it seems like a good time to talk about why I think the ending sucked. Such a topic is obviously going to be spoiler laden, so consider this your SPOILER ALERT.

I read The Hunger Games series last summer in an intense burst, much like everyone else. It’s a unique and engaging story and I liked that it was doing something different. It’s also interesting to see such a dark tale be so popular.

I loved the first installment of the series, but I think it should have ended there. Throughout the book Katniss and Peeta have this awkward relationship. He loves her but the rules of the game mean that they are opponents—to the death. But this gets upended when they change the rules mid-game and Katniss and Peeta can work together. They do and their relationship blossoms, if only for the watching cameras.

Then at the very climax of the ending the rules are changed once again on poor Katniss and Peeta and they’re forced to battle to the death. Katniss refuses to play by their rules and chooses suicide, an action that would be witnessed on live TV and threaten to overturn the brutal regime.

There’s a moment there where she’s going to follow through, she’s going to do it. And in that moment The Hunger Games had the potential to be brilliant. It was a decidedly Romeo & Juliet moment and it would have been the perfect ending.

But no.

The gamemakers step in, they realize what she’s about to do, what it will mean, and they stop her. They declare both her and Peeta winners and an uneasy peace is formed. Katniss and Peeta have survived, but now they’re political targets. They’ll live to see another day… and another installment in the series.

Call my cynical, but that’s what I see in this ending. Instead of ending with a perfect moment, a powerful statement and killing off the main characters and letting it be an ending, we get a lesser ending so the story can be turned into a series. I know that’s what sells in the industry right now. I know that’s the latest rage and it makes economic sense as well. But I think it sucks. I think The Hunger Games goes downhill with the two sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. It turn into this whole political game and it’s not nearly as engaging. It sells more books certainly, but they’re not as good.

As a reader, I want a good ending. And The Hunger Games had the potential to have an amazing ending. I wish it would have ended in that moment. It’s nice to see more of your characters, but sometimes you need to let it end. Sometimes it’s better to let us imagine what happens instead of showing us (sounds like a lesson we should have learned about the Star Wars prequel).

It’s still a great series and a good book and I’m hoping to go see the movie. I just wish it could have been more. Sometimes less is so much more.

24 thoughts on “Why the Ending of The Hunger Games Sucked”

  1. You took the words out of my mouth and typed them up. I’ve always been telling people the first ones good, the endings a bit odd but don’t read the rest.

  2. Seems to run somewhat counter to what you say in “Lessons from a Reader: What Happens Next?” Just sayin’—can’t have it both ways! :-) (And while I liked some of the political stuff, the third book was a complete disaster. Ugh.)

  3. I had almost the same thoughts about the plot, except I think it should have ended with Peeta dying, sacrificing himself so Katniss could win and live. The whole driver for Katniss through the whole thing is to make it home to take care of her family. That is her overriding motivator, more so than loving Peeta or winning the game, or anything – she wants to go home and take care of her sister. So it does not make sense that she would choose suicide. But Peeta loves her so much, he would choose suicide if it meant she would win. The whole thing with the rules of the game changing SUCKED – esp. in the movie. The whole theater groaned when they announced it. It was totally unneccessary. Here’s what I think would have been a much better plot – Peeta hatches the idea of the star-crossed lovers during the training phase – or Peeta and Haymitch hatch it together – Peeta and Katniss will sell themselves as a Romeo and Juliet couple during the whole games, and then at the end, when just two of them are left, they will convince the heads of the game that they would rather kill themselves at the cornucopia than either kill the other…at that point, the gamemakers step in and stop the game and proclaim them dual victors, because if both die, they don’t have a victor and the concept of the games falls apart… Katniss tells Peeta he’s been “eating too much cake” when he tells her his idea, and she goes about her business, but during the games, they do ally, Katniss has a change of heart after Rue’s death touches her, and she and Peeta play it out to the end, kill Cato, and it seems they will go through with their plan to trick the gamemakers by threatening mutual suicide…however, at the last minute, Peeta reveals that he has eaten the poisoned berries, and he dies – having sacrificed himself for her. He knew all along that the gamemakers would never allow two winners, because that also would destroy the concept of the games and the power they hold over the population. He had only tricked her into going along with his plan, while his real plan all along was to protect her and help her go home. This plot would still set Katniss up to be the leader of the revolution in the sequels- she’s still the mockingjay who could move District 11 to riot during the games, so she’s still a threat – and we’d be free of the dreary love triangle of the sequels – there could be enough love interest in later books between Katniss and Gale to sustain interest. Just my idea, but one of the worst parts of the movie for me was the “announcement” (well, and any outside intervention in the games)…I was thinking of ways to spare it.

  4. I agree! I didn’t read any of the books. We saw the movie today only because of the hype about it. We left disappointed and asking ourselves “What the meaning and purpose?” They went back to their crappy lives and won nothing.

  5. Killing off the characters right at the end in such a subtle, yet brutal way would have pushed the novel into such a dark spot, considering the book was written for teens and Scholastic have advertised and sold the novel as a teenagers.

    I do agree however that Catching Fire and Mockingjay ruined the series, by turning it into this… strange, ironic mish-mash of ideas.

  6. Personally I would have loved it to end with Katniss taking out her pin and stabbing the old bastard who runs the games in the neck so everyone could watch him bleed out in second.

    I mean come on. That.. would be an ending! Also, it would have left plenty to make a second movie had they really wanted to do so.

  7. Jeff, that’s a good point. But I think you’re missing the intention of my ‘What Happens Next’ post. The beauty of ‘What Happens Next’ is just wanting to know how things resolve. It only takes a chapter to let us know how things wind down–not two more entire books.

    If the book ended the way I propose, an epilogue talking about uprisings in the districts, fueled by Katniss’ actions would have been plenty.

  8. Reading this was hella deja vu bro. I finished ‘Mockingjay’ about 20 minutes ago and I wanted to gouge my eyes out. I was so pissed and thought ‘ the book would have been great if katniss and peeta suicided with the berries like Romeo and Juliet.’ Then I googled “am I the only one who thought the hunger games ending sucked?” When I found and read this I almost died laughing cause I said the exact same thing!! This series makes me want to become an author so I can show these greedy sellouts how to write…

  9. I just finished reading the books, so it’s very fresh in my head, although I agree with some of your points about the rest of the series, I disagree about the first book – The hunger games. I like the ending of this book because it is clear that only through both Katniss and Peeta surviving do they threaten The Capitol’s system of ruling Panem. The hunger games themselves are used as a reminder of the control the government have over the people in the districts, by forcefully changing the rules of the games (the fact that there can only be one survivor) it is symbolic to show the districts that The Capitol is not as ‘all powerful’ as it appears, and actually heavily relies on the people of the districts for many things. Also the story with Rue and the other district 11 tribute shows that (unlike before) the districts can work alongside each other, rather than on their own.

    That said, I definitely dislike the 3rd book – The Mockingjay. Too much of the story consists of Katniss moping around feeling sorry for herself and drugged up. The whole reason Katniss’ character is likeable is because she is strong and a survivor. The third book (and some of the second) makes her appear to be weak, just a little girl being swept along by others. And there is also so much build up to her going to the Capitol to kill President Snow, and it all fizzles out without her actually achieving anything, apart from killing off her teammates.

    Another annoying element is the fact that there is no clear ‘good guy’ – although The Capitol is obviously bad, the Rebels from district 13 are not really any better, although this might be a statement about real life governments themselves, in this type of ‘story book’ that political debate isn’t really needed. If I wanted to worry about political/philosophical issues and debates I’d read a book specifically concentrating on that subject.

    And then as if to try and make it a ‘happier ending’ there’s a half-hearted attempt to make it seem like Katniss has managed to continue her life, but really it just seems as though she’s still living in the past – still having nightmares, thinking about the games and all the people she ‘unwittingly’ killed through her actions. For me, the end was a major disappointment and although I liked the series as a whole, I think – similar to your main point – I would have preferred the ending had I only read the first book.

  10. i am beginning wonder if my problem with the ending (i literally just finished mockingjay) is that my perception of a book series is that there is a happily ever after ending…i would suspect that this series was written to underscore serious societal/political issues but morphed into twilight’s evil twin. perhaps society has projected a semi-teenybopper image on series related books as of late, so our perceptions are off about the original intent of the hunger games series? maybe we aren’t fully taking it as the dark story it actually is? if it were reality, wouldn’t we have the same, non-magical ending to the story?

    having said that, a happier ending would have been what i would have chosen.

  11. I did like the first book but I though that the second book was just pretty much a rewrite of the first book with different death traps in the arena and the third book was just awful. I also didn’t like the ending and the fact that the only news of Gale you got was that he ‘got some fancy job in district 2′ … He had been Katniss’ bestfriend throughout the book and he doesn’t even go back to see her. What’s with that?! I also thought Katniss’ choice to create another Hunger Games with Snow’s grandchild was utterly out of character, which annoyed me and it was pretty clear that the last two books were purely written for the money. Ha ok, rant over!

  12. I don’t get it what’s up with Gale, Katniss’s first boyfriend? He suffers when he sees Katniss with Peeta.

    She obviously don’t love Peeta (or yes? Nah I don’t think so) but still she wants to kill herself forgetting her sister Primrose (but not really because she said “trust me”, so she knew what was happening?)…

    WTH I have a headache right now.

  13. Finished Mockingjay an hour back. What a dissopointing book. It’s like Collins just couldn’t wait to get the series over with. Ha ok, rant over!

  14. oh really, im about to start reading book and i was intrigued by this post well if i gave with the book 3 without finishing chapter it means i agree..hmm cant wait to start reading the mockingjay..thanks guys…oh any recommendation im a hopeless romantic always love reading love stories…

  15. I would have liked to have seen them eat the berries even after they were told to stop, and then told they were both the winners.

    There really can be no winners if the game were to continue on, and if they would have still eaten the berries after being told they were both winners, they would have both become the sacrifice to inspire everyone left.

    But no. They didn’t eat the berries.

    In the end, they became corrupted and part of the system, trading a small measure of comfort for the chance to make a difference, and in the end, that is the darkest ending there can ever be.

  16. I have not read the books and only seen the film. I liked the ending not being Romeo and Juliet. how cliche that would have been.

    I particularly liked the feral look on Presidents Snows face when his thumb runs across his lip, and exposes his teeth, to me indicating that he knows that his regieme has been mocked (mocking birds) i.e. DUPED by the LOVERS.

    At the end I thought that:
    Katness didn’t love Peeta. She loved the guy she had eye contact with at the end of the movie.

    She was a humanist tho.

    We don’t really know if Peeta really loved Katness. Declaring he was in love in the TV interview was it a camoflage strategy (he had a lot of camoflages in the movie). Was it his idea or one the 12 teams creative mentors? He certainly knew he was the weakest.

    However, Peeta was the REAL survivor tho, he adapted, even joining the elites to hunt Katness (how did he sell them that?). Lots of camoflage references throughout the movie.

  17. I personally loved all three books being really into government,politics and war novels but it missed the point where it had to light up at the end im my opinion she should have somehow had facts to prove that coin was guilty of prim’s murder and she should have shot snow then she should have a moment with Gale where he tells her he loves her but Peeta is better for her cause he still ended up remembering even after his hijacking then Peeta should have been there to handle her nervous breakdown and her calming his flashbacks then thy write the books in remembrance of prim and what she meant to them and have national holiday for all those that died in the rebellion and finally show a happy Katniss with her kids who have put the amazing light back in her and Peeta and have become her world her singing them to sleep and knowing that because of what she did no her or Gale’s (he ends marriying someone) ,annie’s or anyone elses child ever need to experience such horror as the games …also it would have been nice if they all ended up living in district 12 with Haymitch as their kids godfather and Effie always prepping and keeping everyone on schedule and uncle Gale who is finally forgiven for co creating the bomb and is back as besites with both Kat and pet …anyone feel like this should have happened ??

  18. Do you guys REALLY need to have some kind of rushed ending in which a main character dies to be satisfied ? The whole plot of the Hunger Games books was the uprising of an opressed people against the Capitol. If it stopped in the first book with only Katniss as the Victor of the Games, the Capitol would have won (once again). What would have been the point ?

    If Gale never go back to see Katniss, it’s because the bombing of the children in the Capitol (and right after, the second bombing which kills Prim)was his idea. He never admitted it, but it’s insinuated. He talked about this kind of plan in Mockingjay.

    The Rebellion lost control of itself during the uprising. In District 13, the rules weren’t any better than the Capitols. President Coin was just as mad as President Snow. The Hunger for revenge took over all what they were standing for in the beginning.

    It wasn’t all about making money, it was about finishing the bloody story Suzanne Collins wanted to tell.

    Not everything have to be simple to be good. If Peeta died in the end of the first book, putting an end to the Hunger Games unborn saga, what would have been the point ? We barely got to know the main characters of the book, so where would have been the “power” you are talking about ? What would have been the interest in the book ? Yay, a new session of the Hunger Games launched by the Capitol, just like every year since the Capitol took the power. And there will be another one each year. And nothing else will happen because the Capitol will still be in control of Panem, opressing most of the Districts. Seriously ?

    It’s just like you wanted the Lord Of The Rings to end with it first book, letting you imagining the rest. There would be no point, since you don’t really know what’s at stake, who the characters really are, etc…

    The fact that Katniss turns out to be weak disappointed you ? All of the main characters aren’t strong, and brave, etc… There are also Human (most of them). Personally, I don’t want to read a story about some kind of superhero kicking his foes’ asses like he (or she) wasn’t giving a damn. Do you ?

  19. Well, i finished reading the Mockingjay an hour ago, the last book in this trilogy, and i have to say, before finding this site, i cried for a good half hour. The last page of the book is ruined, because of my tears. I read, and re-read the last 4 pages. Wow. All i can really say is, it was an unexpected, completely unexpected turn of events, and I am not only shocked, but I am dazed. How could Collins have ended it this way? I came on this site in search for answers, but everyone kept saying,”it would have been better if it ended with the first book”…i say NO! It should have continued, like it did, but the ending should have completely been switched. Was this some sort of way Collins was incorporating in, that society will always be reminded of the past, and there are never happy endings in the ‘real’ world? Twilight ends happily. Harry Potter sorta ends on a good note. But Hunger Games, took a different toll. I know this was just fiction, but somehow it plays with you’re brain. Instead of tears of joy, i sob out of frustration. Katniss was the strongest girl her age, and yes, even if she was human like everyone, she possessed a quality we never saw in the others her age. That quality should have shown throughout the second and third. And because fictional books are a way for us humans, living in a world that includes, war, famine, poverty, and controlling governments, fictious books are there to make us enjoy a world, where it all ends good, and the bad stuff go away. This book, although many bad stuff did go away, did not completely rid of the mental destruction in all these survivors. And i disagree with much more, but that’s all.

  20. I have a theory about The Hunger Games series. I believe it was originally one book, but Collins cut them up to make more money. If you look at the ending of the first book and the ending of the second book, they connect to perfectly. They don’t play out like they ended naturally but rather like they sliced a solid story into two, or three.

  21. I finished the mockingjay last night, I slept at 3 a.m because I just couldn’t leave it without having known how it was going to end. Even though I loved this saga, I just can say that I found the ending disgusting. I know it’s not a good word for a really good book but it was really my feeling. I cried during the two last chapters and what I hated was how Collins ended up with Gale. It shouldn’t have finished like this. Gale was faithful to katniss, they were best friends and even though he knew that katniss would choose peeta over him, he wouldn’t have let her alone in her sadness – and madness. So why should he go and leave katniss on her own? I was looking for only ONE good sentence about Gale in the last pages, I was sure that in the epilogue there will be something good written about him but nothing. I was quite desperated actually ^^ Even when Katniss talks about how she’s going to explain to her child what happened, she doesn’t mention Gale. It’s total unfair. She can’t forget someone with whom she’s been all of this through.
    Anyway, even though I hated the way Gale was “treated” at the end of this book, it was a very good saga, strong and breathtaking. It was actually the first saga that I read which doesn’t have a happy ending and it was different from the other sagas.

    P.S: Sorry if there are English mistakes in what I have written :/ I’m learning English so I still make mistakes ^^

  22. You are all stupid and disillusioned. It’s called a Satire. Life doesn’t have happy endings

  23. I think that you are all being entirely shortsighted and incredibly predictable when you say you hated the ending to the first book. I also think you are missing the whole point of the series. This is not about Romeo and Juliet who other than their feuding families lived in a very regular world for their time. It was normal. This world Katniss and Peta live in is far from normal. How could it possibly be a good ending when the whole idea for the hunger games is the twisted sickening power that a very few have over the many, interlaced with the complete and utterly unabashed joy the capitol takes in punishing yet another generation for crimes that were well justifyable by the people of the uprising. It is a continuation of getting some perverted joy out of seeing a “war” yet not having to participate in it.
    If Katniss had eaten the berries or even shot Peta or herself the whole point of the book …the series would be shattered and lost. This is not a romance gone horribly wrong it is about standing up for what is right and just.
    The next books take that idea to the end of the games literally. And people pay with their lives, with their dreams and with their hopes being almost crushed to death. But in the end it is about the pain and horror of a nation stepping out of slavery and destitution. It is about winning against outright sickening evil. It is about the very idea that the people who participate in enjoyment of these games don’t have a single clue and are being led by a president that is set on one thing. Ultimate power. And this thread is woven twice …deftly intertwining each other in the last book when the second absolute power that corrupts absolutely is recognized and brought to an abrupt halt. Prim has died anyway… at the hands of someone much more twisted than even President Snow. Snow followed in someone else’s footsteps and kept pace, but in the final book we see a new power arise which threatens the peace so painfully fought for…and that which cancels out the whole purpose of the final battle…and even the purpose of volunteering for Prim in the first book. Despite Katniss volunteering to save her sister from imanent death in the hunger games, someone even more evil takes her from Katniss anyway…with false promises and no qualms about killing its children either. It is a power so evil that KNOWING she is doing the same thing Coin is hell bent on returning evil for evil which was the premise of the hunger games and why they started in the first place…and the original reason that they started a rebellion to have it stop.

    It was brilliant …nothing else could have happened in the first book. It was never meant to be a one book story. This story needed to evolve…to show that sometimes we are not even sure who it is we are fighting and that we can never be sure who’s side we are on until the final arrow is released.

    If you wanted a romance this was the wrong series to be reading. These books are about war…the ugliness of control and corrupt powerful and dangerous people taking control of our world and turning it into a slaughter house for the innocent in wars that don’t need to be fought. It is truly about injustice and how the rich remain rich and the poor are always the ones to suffer for it and how if we do not change this it will remain the same. History will repeat itself if we keep allowing the same things to happen…

    Katniss chose change.

  24. Oh and about Gale…

    How could Gale be anything to Katniss when it was his very weapon he knowingly made that killed prim in the end. Some relationships don’t heal. This is the other truth about war. It changes people …completely and for ever. It is called tragedy for a reason. It is tragic Gale and Katniss could not be friends …but how? You could forgive your friend for having such a huge part in killing the very person you were bound and determined to save when you originally volunteered…this is what started the whole damed process. In the end Gale loses his way…the fighting becomes more about winning than it is about being moral.

    Everyone changes in war. It is part of the tragedy. And sometimes those changes are irreversible. It is a lesson that we should never allow these things to happen to us in the first place.

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