If you’ve ever underestimated The Hunger Games, it would have been your mistake. As franchise worth just under $3 billion with a fandom that’s reached every corner of the internet, the newest installment is the cherry on top of this dystopian cake.
So, with The Hunger Games universe being so well-known, you’d expect there to be Easter eggs aplenty across every new movie that’s ever been added to the collection. But is that the case? Well, we’re here to tell you if A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes has any extras for fans. Read ahead to see what the biggest throwback movie of 2023 has hidden.
1. Are you coming to the tree?
‘The Hanging Tree’ is a song featured all across the board when it comes to this film series. An old folk song about two lovers meeting up by the hanging tree at midnight, it’s used as both a comfort and a rebellious cry throughout the movies. Here, we see where the song was first born, and it all came from Lucy Gray.
The moments told within the song are depicted throughout Songbirds and Snakes: a dead man calls out for his lover, people wear ropes of necklaces, and two lovers meet to run away. We even see Lucy Gray with her guitar, appearing to craft the song as she goes.
2. Katniss Everdeen: the girl on fire
Katniss might not appear in A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, but her character is mentioned. Well, in a sense. Katniss herself is named after the roots found on a Panem plant, and when Lucy Gray and Coriolanus are at the river, she tells him what they’re really called, adding that Katniss “has a nicer ring to it.”
She also mentions Katniss again when she realizes she’s in danger, and tells him she’s going to search for some by the river. This is the last conversation they ever have, so we don’t think it’s a coincidence that Snow’s association with Katniss might be less than pleasant, given what the word comes to mean to him later.
3. Snow and the Mockingjays
Speaking of Katniss, we all know she goes on to become the Mockingjay, a symbol for the rebel revolution. Snow gets his first interaction with the bird species while he’s living in District 12.
In the book, he takes an instant dislike to the birds (a hatred also shown in the movie), mostly because of what they represent. When residents are brought to the hanging tree, the birds echo their last words. A haunting detail, especially when it comes to Sejenus’ fate down the line.
Lucy Gray later uses the birds to her advantage when she’s running away and sings aloud in order for them to copy her and disorientate Snow. He screams at the birds and sprays bullets into the trees, tortured by their birdsong. All this hints towards what the Mockingjay ultimately becomes for him: his downfall.
4. A host with the most
One of the most surreal aspects of the original movies (and of the Hunger Games themselves) was the televised circus that came with them. You’ll already be familiar with Stanley Tucci’s bright-haired, white-toothed Caesar Flickerman, who acted as host during the final years of the Games.
But in A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, there’s a different fellow holding the microphone, and you might recognize his name: Lucky Flickerman.
That’s right — the two hosts are related! It’s not clarified how so, but we have some clues. Aside from their names and their flare for entertainment, you can hear Lucky allude to the fact that he has a child during one scene in the new movie, where he tries to make a restaurant reservation for “two people and a highchair.” It’s perfectly possible that Caesar is the baby being referred to, making his father the original host of the Games.
5. The things we love the most
President Snow is a force to be reckoned with, and throughout his time dealing with the Mockingjay, he gives Katniss Everdeen plenty of thinly veiled threats and pearls of wisdom.
One of his most famous lines (aside from the “They’re holding hands…I want them dead” classic) is when he tells Katniss: “Miss Everdeen, it is the things we love most that destroy us.” Not only is this piece of dialogue a perfect summary of the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes plot, but it’s incorporated very literally.
At the prequel’s end, after Snow has confronted Dean Highbottom and tricked him into consuming poison, he walks out of the Academy and stands in the middle of the Capitol, staring at a looming statue. As the screen cuts to black, we can hear a snippet of Donald Sutherland’s original dialogue, repeating the above line.
6. That girl is poison
Another Snow Easter egg, now. One of the President’s most recognizable aspects (other than his roses), is the fact that he tends to lean towards poison as a form of control and punishment. In fact, poison plays a very prominent role throughout the series. In the first movie alone, Katniss and Peeta take the first step to overthrowing the Capitol by agreeing to both eat poison berries. At the end, Snow uses poison to kill off Seneca Crane.
It’s explained that Snow has used poison for years to defeat his enemies and allies alike, but he’s had to consume so much of it himself to avoid suspicion that he now has permanent sores inside his mouth.
In the prequel movie, we can see Snow’s first use of poison, solidifying his weapon of choice: first when he sneaks Lucy Gray rat poison for her to use in the arena, and again when he kills Dean Highbottom. He himself is even poisoned, when he’s bitten by Lucy Gray’s snake after she runs away.
Those are all the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Easter eggs you need to know about. For more, check out our A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes review, and find out how to watch the new movie. You can also check out the best movies of all time, to see what dystopian tales are hidden there.
Don’t forget to check out our interview with Francis Lawrence, were we took a deep-dive into what made him return for the newest adaptation.