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“Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”' mysterious ending, explained

“Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”' mysterious ending, explained

What happens to Coriolanus Snow and Lucy Gray Baird in the woods? Well...

Murray Close/Lionsgate Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth in
Murray Close/Lionsgate Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth in 'Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes'

Warning: This post contains spoilers from the 10th annual Hunger Games. 

Teenage Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) breaks bad by the end of Hunger Games prequel Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

How does the movie end? District 12’s Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) wins the Games — but not without repercussions for mentor Coriolanus, who broke some rules to ensure his beloved songbird makes it out alive. Sentenced to Peacekeeper duties, he requests to serve District 12 to reunite with his love. Things go south after rebel activity involving his pal and fellow exiled Peacekeeper Sejanus Plinth (Josh Andrés Rivera), who plans to flee the Capitol, resulting in Coriolanus shooting bystander Mayfair Lipp, the mayor’s daughter, and turning Sejanus in for treason.

Not long into their trek into the woods, Coriolanus turns on Lucy Gray after he’s convinced that she knows he’s behind Sejanus’ execution. Fearing she will turn him in for Mayfair’s death, his paranoia reaches a fever pitch after he believes that Lucy Gray, who stepped out of the cabin they’ve sought refuge in to scavenge for a katniss plant, is hiding from him. His calls for her go unanswered, until he notices her scarf on the floor with a snake hidden beneath it. It pierces his forearm. She’s tricked him. He briefly spots her running by and releases bullets in her direction. Then, a faint whimper. When her voice appears, it’s via mockingjays, singing “The Hanging Tree.” The melody and Coriolanus’ calls to Lucy Gray come alive in the woods, prompting him to machine-gun the trees to stop the noise. 

Murray Close/Lionsgate Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth in 'Hunger Games' prequel 'Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes'
Murray Close/Lionsgate Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth in 'Hunger Games' prequel 'Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes'

Coriolanus never finds Lucy Gray in the woods. He returns to District 12 to treat his snake bite. His story ends at the Capitol, where Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis) informs him that he’s to study under her at the university. But what of Lucy Gray? Did she die? Is she hiding in the woods? Did she return home?

The answer is meant to be ambiguous, as Suzanne Collins’ book ends in the same mysterious way, mirroring English poet William Wordsworth’s “Lucy Gray.” The songbird’s name originates from the poem, which is also featured in the book. It tells the story of a girl who gets lost in a snowstorm, her footsteps slowly disappearing in the snow: “Yet some maintain that to this day she is a living child; that you may see sweet Lucy Gray upon the lonesome wild,” Wordsworth writes.

“We tried to make everything add up as much as possible, even if there's some mystery left,” director Francis Lawrence tells EW. But he’s got some theories: “I think she's alive for sure. I think she vanished into the woods and made a life for herself.”

Everett Collection Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow in 'The Hunger Games' franchise
Everett Collection Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow in 'The Hunger Games' franchise

Blyth isn’t sure what to make of the ending, but observes it comes full circle with franchise star Donald Sutherland’s tyrant. “For her to fly off and him to not understand what's happened is a great metaphor for how he feels about the world, which is: if he doesn't understand it, he needs to control it; and if he can't control it, he's going to kill it,” adds Blyth, sharing that his meltdown in the woods was the most challenging to film.

“I'd lived in his body for quite a while, and he [goes] through so many different, subtle transformations,” he says. “To be with him in that moment — that rage bubbling up inside him, which is then going to inform the rest of his life — I felt heartbroken for him.” As for Coriolanus’ attempt to kill Lucy Gray, “I think it's great that we don't know whether he succeeds.”

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes arrives in theaters Nov. 17. You can buy Entertainment Weekly's The Ultimate Guide to The Hunger Games here, or on newsstands.

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Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.