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EDITORIAL: The Necessity of Finnick Odair

WARNING: This post discusses Finnick’s story arc in Mockingjay and contains major spoilers! If you have not read Mockingjay then I strongly suggest you close this window now.

For everyone else, let’s continue.

Some weeks ago you may recall the following “statement from Suzanne Collins” (or a variation of) doing the rounds:

“He will not die in the movies,” says Collins. “That will help undo my mistake.”

It appears to have started mainly on Tumblr not long after J.K Rowling sent the Potter fandom into a spin, with many bloggers choosing titles like “BREAKING: Suzanne Collins, author of the “Hunger Games” trilogy, regrets killing off Finnick Odair”, before spreading across other social media networks.

It’s interesting to note how the “he” in the statement is interpreted – many people jumped to the conclusion that it meant Finnick, but why could it not have meant many other characters such as Boggs, Mitchell, Homes or Messala? I believe the “he” being interpreted as Finnick, never mind the ‘statement’ itself, is nothing more than a ploy to prey on fans of one of the most popular characters of the books and generate a few hits.

USA - The Hunger Games: Catching Fire LA Premiere - Los Angeles

Anyone who has been around the fandom long enough can refute this ‘statement’ based on two simple truths we know about Ms Collins: timing and tone/language.

Ms Collins rarely speaks about her books publicly, nor their movie adaptations. On the few occasions she has gone on the record these have been directly prior to a movie’s release, not months later when nothing is happening. She enjoys her privacy and shies away from media attention, so why would she comment on the Mockingjay films so far from their release? Especially considering the above relates to content in Part 2, which isn’t due until November 2015.

The tone and language of the statement is also rather simple, and as book readers we know Ms Collins tone and language are anything but. Have you read the TIME interviews with Francis Lawrence and Ms Collins prior to Catching Fire? Her answers were incredibly detailed and well thought out and nothing like what is written above.

So, we can confidently conclude this is a rumour and really a pretty thoughtless one. However, it has brought up an interesting discussion point: the importance of Finnick’s death and how it will also play out on screen.

Finnick is a favourite character for many of us, including Ms Collins, and one of the most emotionally devastating deaths in a series with many. You only have to do a quick Google search to reveal thousands upon thousands of fan works and the search “why did Finnick have to die” returns 135,000 results. It’s the million dollar question that can be answered in a multitude of ways and it also means different things to different people. For me, Finnick’s death is probably the one that teaches readers the most about war and its consequences.

Ms Collins has talked about her father’s experiences with war and growing up learning about the history behind several conflicts. In her own words, this has driven her to write about “the idea of the necessary or unnecessary war.” The Hunger Games trilogy questions this many times and continually blurs the lines between what is necessary and what is not. Whilst it isn’t referenced in canon I believe Finnick would have had a choice not to participate in the final push on the Capitol, but he believed in the “necessary war” to change the future of Panem and went with Katniss and Squad 451.

Mags_and_Finnick_Catching_Fire

Finnick’s death becomes even more tragic when you consider his manner of death and the unborn child he leaves behind. War leaves a mark on generations and Ms Collins certainly wanted us to feel that. What better way to demonstrate this than through Finnick and Annie’s child? Their child is also one of Finnick’s greatest motivators in joining Squad 451 – if he cannot help put an end to the Capitol then what hope is there for their child, who would no doubt be reaped in a future games. It’s no coincidence that this draws stark parallels with many conflicts in history, where combatants fought for a better future for their own.

Lastly, Finnick’s death is also important in terms of providing hope for the future, just as Prim’s does for Katniss. His death isn’t in vain and without Finnick’s effort and sacrifice Katniss would not have made it as far into the Capitol as she did. It must be included on screen just as it is in the book, to show that war spares no one, no matter how noble, and to help deliver the warning of a cause for change. To leave it out would be a major disservice to the novels and by extension the films, both as an enjoyable and full circle story and as a message for all generations.

About Tash

Tash is a 28-year-old Australian currently working in communications and media. A keen WW2 history enthusiast, particularly when it comes to the airborne, Tash also enjoys gaming, car detailing and spending far too much time on the Internet.
  • bsmj

    Sweetheart, that quote from Collins is fake. It was a joke created by someone on Tumblr as a parody of the JK Rowling debacle. Don’t waste your breathe trying to analyze it.

    • http://www.jabberjays.net/author/phil/ Phil Barrett-Turner

      If you read the article, she clearly says it is fake as well! 🙂

    • SPM

      Aw, Haymitch, you need to go dry out.

  • Pulchritudinous

    It seems as though that quote came from a fangirl who was seemed desperate to have Finnick live in Mockingjay Part 2. Sorry, but that’s not gonna happen. I completely agree that Finnick’s death was completely necessary. His death really shows that no one gets out of war unscathed, physically or mentally, and how much of an effect it has on society. It’s rather sad to see that message go over the heads of those kind of people just because they have a connection to a certain character.

    • Tash

      Absolutely agreed Pulchritudinous – it would be a shame to see that message lost in the spectacle of it all. I don’t think it will be given Lionsgate and co’s treatment of the films thus far, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they achieve the balance of a blockbuster vs keeping the meaning intact for Mockingjay.

  • SPM

    Tash, how does Prim’s death provide hope for the future?

    • Hana

      Just a thought on Prim’s death….for a clever, ruthless dictator to be unmasked, and ultimately deposed, there has to come a moment of unveiling, something that shocks people into seeing the truth for the first time. In Mockingjay that moment came for Snow when Finnick revealed to all Panem the secrets of how Snow held onto and used power; for Coin, the moment is less publically revealed, but the one person who is most likely to take action sees the truth. It is because Prim died, and because of the way she died, the Katniss realizes that Panem can never be free if Coin seizes power. It is only when both Snow and Coin are gone that Panem can slowly rebuild its society–and Prim’s sacrificial death, as well as Finnick’s courage, played pivotal roles in making those two victories possible.

      • SPM

        You don’t think Katniss would’ve had the same realization had her sister not been in that crowd? It wouldn’t have been enough that so many children were slaughtered? Why Prim?

        • Hana

          No, I don’t think it would have had the same impact had Prim not died. Katniss is moved by things that happen to the people she cares most for–and that’s a very short list.

          • SPM

            That was the case through much of the trilogy, but her worldview was expanding in MJ (and I think that growth is one of the larger themes of the trilogy as a whole). She was shocked and horrified at Gale’s approach to taking the Nut in District 2 and, if I recall correctly, she was already starting to distrust Coin by that time because she saw Coin viewed her as a symbol with a limited shelf life. I think the massacre of innocents during the final Capitol assault would’ve cemented her new way of thinking, whether Prim was in the crowd or not. For example, even if Prim had lived, I think the moment Katniss learned of Coin’s plan for another Hunger Games would have been enough to alert her to the danger and begin plotting to overthrow Coin. Maybe she wouldn’t have assassinated her in front of everyone, but I always thought that was at least as much a revenge shot as it was Katniss’s attempt to address the larger political dangers – especially given that Katniss wasn’t in her right mind at the time.

          • Hana

            I dunno, SPM…I think you are being more charitable towards Katniss than I am 🙂 Katniss was a tough cookie and as Haymitch says “strangely unlikable”.

            Katniss never struck me as even the least bit political or idealistic. Peeta might have reasoned things out the way you do, but not Katniss. I think you are on target about her widening point of view, but I suspect that just means that the list of people she cared about got a little longer!

          • SPM

            We do see her differently, I agree. I wouldn’t have thought of myself as “charitable” toward Katniss, as I find her equally frustrating and inspiring. But I do think her ideals changed and expanded over the course of the trilogy, due in large part to Peeta’s influence.

          • Hana

            That’s a really good point about Peeta’s influence!

          • Tash

            I like your point about Peeta! I sit somewhere in the middle of you two I think – I agree that Katniss had started to expand her view of the world and the way things work, but I still believe it took Prim to truly make her see. And I think it also took Prim to give her the guts and impetus to get rid of Coin.

    • Tash

      Hana has written much of the answer for me – I’m in the camp where it takes Prim’s death to make Katniss ‘snap out of it’ for lack of a better saying. I’m not certain that Katniss may have worked out Coin needed to go if her sister hadn’t died, given her absolute fixation on Snow at that time. Good fodder for another editorial!

      Ultimately though I suppose I am more trying to make the point that neither of their deaths are futile. The bombing of the children is pretty much the last act of violence as well and the moment where it’s really clear that the rebel forces have become just the same as the Capitol. I like to think that this last act of Prim and the others provides just as much cause for a ceasefire as did reaching the mansion itself.

      I think Katniss’ gradual healing after Prim’s death also continues the ‘hope’ her sister had to see a better Panem and her own children are a part of fulfilling this. Without them Prim’s message/sacrifice cannot continue onto future generations, and therefore hopefully stop the cycle from repeating itself.

      Hope those ramblings make sense!

      • SPM

        They do make sense. You’ve both spoken very well. I guess I’ve always taken a much more nihilistic view toward Prim’s death – that it was precisely the pointless, futile nature of it that made it such a powerful anti-war statement. But it’s certainly not my place to talk anyone out of finding hope and meaning in anything. 🙂

        • Tash

          I love our frank discussions 🙂 And it really does highlight just how broad the appeal of the series is when there is so much to interpret and discuss.

          • Babs

            Tash, I really could not agree with you more. I am simply amazed how much this series comes up in my conversations with my family ( immediate and otherwise) friends, teachers and others who cross my path. One of my son’s teachers has stated he will not read a series about kids killing kids. I had to convince him that that is really the most minute part of the story. It is about so much more-politics, war, inner struggles, character growth, rebellion…need I go on? I find that is is a very sad story in the end-a story that destroyed a young woman. In all seriousness, I can’t believe how much this series has gripped me. Just really fantastic writing.

          • Tash

            Absolutely Babs! I remember many people asking me about the film when it first came out as they knew I had an interest and the common question that kept coming up was “but isn’t it about kids killing kids?”

            Everyone who I’ve managed to convince to pick up the books has really enjoyed them (and a good friend even became almost as obsessed as myself!) but I wish we could convince many, many more to do the same.

      • Hana

        Yes, the fact that Prim died in an effort aimed towards saving lives is one of those atrocities that make people step back from war and say, “enough”. But Katniss doesn’t do things for vague, theoretical ‘other people’.

        Katniss DID have a fixation about Snow, just as he was fixated on her. Snow says this and something clicks in her addled head. She realizes that Snow is telling the truth when he says that the rebels were responsible for the bombing. But the point where Katniss connects all the dots comes when Coin proposes a final Hunger Games with the Capitol children as Tributes.

        Katniss volunteered as Tribute to save Prim. Prim died trying to aid the children of the Capitol. It’s because it’s all personal to Katniss that she sees the terrible symmetry and realizes what she has to do–kill Coin, not Snow.

      • TeamButtercup

        I think Prim’s death (and to a lesser extend Finnick’s death) made Readers snap out of their disillusions. I remember reading the part where the rebels were killing innocent Capitol citizens yet I still wanted Katniss to kill Snow. It is only after the bombing of the children and Prim’s death that I realized that killing Snow won’t give meaning to deaths of the Capitol citizens.

        Like Katniss, I was too busy wanting Snow to pay for past crimes that I wasn’t acknowledging Coin’s current crimes. Prim and Finnick’s death served a purpose to wake up the reader and see what the bigger picture was.

        • Tash

          Very true TeamButtercup – I was suspicious of Coin from the start but the ending still truly floored me the first time. It definitely took me multiple re-reads to pick up on all the subtleties that had been littered throughout.

          I’m really hoping Julianne Moore manages to pull this off, I’m sure she will. I want Coin’s ambiguity and hidden layers of evil to come across on screen.

  • Jackson Brooks Sharpe

    Tash this was really well written and thought out. I really like the line where you said it shows “war spares no one,” which is very true. I was thinking about it and the only problem I have with Suzanne Collins writing to make deaths realistic is it’s not realistic at all that Katniss and Peeta survived two hunger games or even that Gale survived all of this. So it just makes you think she why she chose to kill who she killed in the name of “realism” and spare who she spared.

  • Jane

    I think Finnick should die in the movies. Yes it was sad but it was important. It showed that people die in war, people you love will die.

  • SF
  • amee_saurus

    The only thing I disagreed with about Finnick’s death was how quickly Collins skipped over it. I was so angry that lesser developed characters had way more to their deaths than poor Finnick. She is such an overly descriptive and verbose writer who leaves little to no room for reader interpretation with pages upon pages of Katniss’ exhausting thoughts. His story and character was such a huge part of the book. He deserved a better death than that. What’s worse is he’s not really mentioned again, nor is the state of Annie and their child. I agree that Finnick’s death was necessary to the point of the whole story, I just hope that it’s not completely skipped over in Mockingjay Pt. 2 as it is in the book.

  • http://s77.photobucket.com/user/producer_love/library/MYFCOMarryYourFavoriteCharacterOnline Snapdragon

    The fakeness of that was immediately obvious to me; it looked like the work of a troll or a desperate fan in denial. Not that I can exactly blame her/him if it was the latter–“Annick” is almost too sad for me to contemplate, knowing what’s coming. I don’t think we can anticipate the miraculous survival of any previously doomed people (nor, thankfully, need to fear any survivors winding up biting it.) There’s been relatively little deviation from the text so far, and all the edits made have been justified organically. It IS important, I think, that we and the other characters feel the emotional impact of the coming losses. I think it is important that it be people close to Katniss who’re lost. Sparing Finnick would have been a sweet mercy, but the story’s not supposed to be merciful, and being afraid to break our hearts isn’t a valid reason to alter fate that drastically. One can only hope that the major, shocking deaths are given a little more weight than they were in the book.

  • Shannon

    I wish they never killed off Finnick! He was my favourite character!