Funny thing about this final deus ex gamemaker: at first I was like: “WEREWOLVES!? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?” But then I was like, “Oh, maybe they're not werewolves...” And then I was like “HOLY SHIT THIS IS FUCKED UP AND AWESOME.”
Because at first, yeah, it seems like Cato is being chased by giant wolves. He runs, Katniss and Peeta run (it's interesting to note that Katniss seems to keep forgetting Peeta is even there, obsessed as she is with her own survival) and Katniss doesn't get a good look at them. But she signals for the outraged YA fans to wait up a second—this isn't another damn werewolf book, Katniss promises!
Up close, I'm sure their more menacing attributes will be revealed.
Cato climbs the cornucopia, and Katniss follows while Peeta limps along trying to catch up. At the top (the shape and look of this thing is kind of hard to imagine. I mean I guess it's like your standard Thanksgiving centerpiece, but gold and enormous and flat enough for three people to stand/lie down on?) Cato is lying down, catching his breath. Katniss is about to kill him when she remembers Peeta (“Oh right, Peeta exists!”-Katniss) and sees him struggling to climb up, wolves on his tail.
Two things happen before our heroes and villains get their acts together and fight. Peeta gets bitten on the leg but subdues his attacker with a knife. Then Katniss looks one of them in the eyes (don't look them in the eyes, idiot!) and has a horrifying realization.
“It's them. It's all of them. The others. Rue and Foxface and...all of the other tributes,” I choke out.
She recognizes their human-like eyes and sees collars with identifying district numbers (classy touch, Gamemakers). YIKES. I mean, we knew that the government of Panem didn't care much for the lives of these kids, but to create monstrous creatures in their images is some next-level shit. I don't even want to think about the actual mechanics of doing such a thing, because any way you slice it (cutting out eyeballs, reanimating and genetically enhancing corpses) shit is DARK. Recall Peeta and his vow to make sure the capitol knew they didn't own him—that certainly wouldn't have been the case if he'd been killed in the games. Overall it's such a grisly and horrifying moment that I tried not to fixate on Katniss's further descriptions of the creatures, because them shits is still werewolves. But anyway.
Katniss eventually recovers her wits enough to remember to kill Cato, but by then motherfucker has Peeta in a headlock. Katniss takes aim and he points out that if she kills him, Peeta will fall and die too. They have a brief standoff before Peeta draws an X on Cato's hand. He figures out what it means a split-second after Katniss's arrow pierces his hand, and he falls backward to the beasts below.
And here's another fucked up part. Peeta and Katniss wait on top of the cornucopia for the cannon to signal Cato's death, but it doesn't come. The beasts are killing him slowly, dragging it out. Hours pass, night falls, and poor Cato is still getting torn up on the ground.
Peeta's leg wound turns out to be pretty bad, so as they wait out the clock on Cato's life and the games Katniss makes a tourniquet (out of her shirt! HUBBA HUBBA) to try and save Peeta's leg. More time passes, and Katniss is filled with pity for Cato, being tossed around below her. At some point he lands close enough to them, and Katniss decides to use her last arrow to put him out of his misery. She looks at the “raw hunk of meat that used to be my enemy” and thinks she can hear him say “please.” So she kills him.
We've certainly had periodic glimpses into the capital-e Evil of Panem before, but never has it been thrown into such stark relief. The end of the Hunger Games proper is a stone fucking bummer. Suzanne Collins makes sure any kind of thrill we might have gotten from the violence before now is long gone. I thought I was signing up for George Orwell-lite, but this is more like Michael Haneke-lite. And Haneke-lite is still HEAVY AS FUCK.
The cannon sounds, the wolves run into a trap door, but nothing happens to signal the end of the games. No fireworks, no dancers. Katniss and Peeta limp down to the lake, and an announcement blares: they're taking back the rule change; there can only be one Hungerlander again. O cruel!
Peeta stands up, and Katniss immediately points her bow at his heart. And then he throws his knife into the lake. WHOOPS. I hate it when that happens! He offers to kill himself—which would have been easier with the knife—and unties his tourniquet.
“You're not leaving me here alone,” I say. Because if he dies, I'll never go home, not really. I'll spend the rest of my life in this arena trying to think my way out.
Peeta mentions that “they have to have a victor,” which gives Katniss an idea. If they both kill themselves at the same time, there will be no winner. So she pulls out the berries that killed Foxface and holds them out for the world to see ("If there are poison berries at the start of Act III, they'll come back before the end of Act III"-Chekov). They agree to do it on the count of three, and when they reach it Katniss wonders if her gambit won't work. But at the very last second the Gamemakers announce that they've changed the rules back, and Peeta and Katniss are the winners of the Hunger Games. Huh!