Songbirds And Snakes Writer Defends Lucy Gray Baird’s Ambiguous Ending

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Written By Maya Cantina

SPOILERS lie ahead for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. 

When the ending of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes unravels, the origins of Tom Blyth’s Coriolanus Snow may be fleshed out, but Rachel Zegler’s Lucy Gray Baird disappears into the forest, without much closure regarding her fate. Does the District 12 tribute get caught by a Peacemaker and become another victim in Panem, or does she successfully escape with her Covey and quietly live the life of her dreams on the outskirts of the dystopian country? We just don’t know. Now, one of the prequel’s screenwriters has shed light on why the creative team decided to keep Lucy’s fate ambiguous. 

By the time Michael Lesslie co-wrote The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes with Michael Arndt, he’d already crafted work set in Panem. He also penned the most beloved of The Hunger Games films starring Jennifer Lawrence, Catching Fire. The scribe seems to put a considerable amount of thought into storytelling decisions. With that, Lesslie insights regarding why Lucy Gray Baird’s ending was left open ended were very keen, while he spoke about making the prequel. In his words: 

This is kind of in the weeds of the adaptation, but there were moments where we didn’t have cameras underneath in the tunnels during the games. When they go down and tunnels, Lucky says ‘We repurposed the security cameras.’ Suzanne was always, and I think rightly, very insistent that we could only see Lucy Gray stuff if Coriolanus could see a version of it himself so we can only see what’s happening in the tunnels if Coriolanus can sort of either infer it from the camera angle of security or not.

While speaking to The Wrap, he further shared that the decision comes from the author of the novel The Hunger Games book is based on, Suzanne Collins. She insisted that the movie’s story be told from Coriolanus Snow’s perspective just like the source material. It was decided behind the scenes that the prequel would achieve this by only having points of view that Snow was experiencing. As Lesslie continued: 

So there were versions where we had full cutaway scenes where there was no way he could have known what was happening in the tunnels like we didn’t have the cameras, but we would get to see it. And in that version, Suzanne was like, ‘If you do that, you have to show Lucy Gray in the end.’ Because the audience has been given that perspective and we will need it and expect it. But if we are fundamentally locked in with Coriolanus and he is our POV, then you want to share his maddening mystery at the end and you definitely don’t go there, which I think is brilliantly smart.

With there being an element of unfinished business regarding Lucy Gray Baird by the time the credits roll, the audience is left with the same uncertainty that’s hounding Snow due to the filmmaking decision. Sure, the movie could have answered what the book didn’t if the filmmakers chose to. However, the creatives decided to, instead, lean into the perspective of the future Panem president. 

Michael Lesslie, Michael Arndt and the filmmakers of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes had quite the task, considering the novel is 528 pages long. The movie ended up adapting the entirety of Suzanne Collins an ultimately clocked in at 157 minutes, making it the longest movie in the Hunger Games franchise. While the prequel could have actually been divided into two movies, director Francis Lawrence decided not to after previously receiving flack for splitting Mockingjay into two parts.   

While some of us may want to know what happened to Lucy, it’s tough to argue with Suzanne Collins. This is her story, after all. Collins was a producer on the movie, and previously shared with the public that she is “thrilled” to recommend the adaptation. The prequel has been one of the most popular of 2023 new movie releases of the fall season and has received a lot of positive praise from audiences. Some have even called it the best in the Hunger Games series. Will its success inspire Collins to explore Lucy Gray Baird’s story further, or is it destined to be a mystery? We’ll have to see. 

In the meantime, check out The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes in theaters now, and stream past installments in the series with a Hulu subscription.

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