Eight years after we said goodbye to Jennifer Lawrence’s dystopian heroine Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games movie franchise is taking us back to the dystopian realm of Panem. Based on the novel by Suzanne Collins, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a prequel to the original series of films, and takes place 64 years earlier, following a young Coriolanus Snow long before he became a villainous dictator.
Aged 18 and going by “Coryo,” this version of Snow (Tom Blyth) is a mentor assigned to Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), a traveling musician and District 12’s tribute for the 10th annual Hunger Games. Unlike the high-tech, futuristic arena of the later Games, this earlier incarnation of the battle royale takes place in a decrepit colosseum-like space overseen by head gamemaker Dr. Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis), and hosted by Lucky Flickerman (Jason Schwartzman).
While The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes tells its own largely self-contained story, focusing on the relationship between Coryo and Lucy and its impact on his life, it also by sheer virtue of being a prequel leans heavily on the existing mythology of The Hunger Games and teases links between the installments. Lucky Flickerman, we presume, is an ancestor of Stanley Tucci’s character from the original movies, while Euphoria star Hunter Schafer plays the younger version of a key figure.
But in addition to hearkening back to the familiar, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes also broadens the world of Panem, potentially laying the groundwork for more movies set at different points in its troubled history. There are decades’ worth of Games left to play out before Katniss Everdeen is even born.
So does this movie tease future installments? Perhaps in a mid-credits stinger?
Does The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes have a post-credits scene?
This movie doesn’t feature any additional sequences during the credits, but it does end on an effective callback to the first movie. While the final shot of the film is of young Coryo smiling, we then hear a voiceover from his older self, President Snow (Donald Sutherland), saying: “It’s the things we love most, that destroy us.”
It’s a line that Snow first uttered to Katniss in Mockingjay Part 1, given new meaning in light of the story we’ve just been told, explains director Francis Lawrence:
“I thought it was just perfect because there was something about that line, that even though it didn’t have that kind of history and intention in the original Mockingjay, suddenly you go, ‘Oh wow, there’s a new history to it. There’s a new context for this line,’ because part of the reason that he goes dark is this sort of betrayal of this relationship and this love that he had for this person.”
Philip Ellis is News Editor at Men’s Health, covering fitness, pop culture, sex and relationships, and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV, and he is the author of Love & Other Scams.