“He’s generous. He also really, really loves Katniss, despite her indifference, and he talks about it constantly,” wrote Amanda Dobbins last year in a passionate defense of Team Gale, arguing that if Katniss “never had to go through the most horrible experience of her life,” the choice would’ve been clear. But that’s not the (fake) reality. Katniss has two Hunger Games behind her and has become very attached to her partner in battle, Peeta, so Gale continues to get the shaft. Gale ends up heartbroken in both book and film, but Mockingjay — Part 1 wraps up the fight for Katniss’s affections way before the book. You may have entered the movie theater looking for exciting battles, but I came for a potent love triangle, and I left disappointed.
Let’s start by distinguishing the two: Film Gale and Book Gale. Book Gale: tall, dark, handsome. Film Gale: Liam Hemsworth. Both men first appear in the beginning of their respective Mockingjays to comfort Katniss as she awakens all confused and disoriented. As part of her security detail, Film Gale follows Katniss around like a puppy dog, seeming more occupied with his new military responsibilities than with her actual feelings. But he continues to look longingly into her eyes at every possible turn, and after they find themselves back at Victor’s Village in District 12 — he notes that it’s where they kissed for the first time, his sad eyes manipulating her into a pity kiss. “I knew you’d kiss me,” he says dryly. “Because I’m in pain … That’s the only way I get your attention.” Harsh! Is this some sort of strategic passive-aggression he things it takes to get her back?
Book Gale, however, feels this exchange a bit more. He “has tears in his eyes,” and here’s how Katniss describes their kiss: “We taste of heat, ashes, and misery. It’s a surprising flavor for such a gentle kiss.” Kind of sexy, no? He “pulls away first,” leaving her with a “wry smile,” clearly keeping her intrigued. Where Film Gale has clearly lost Katniss, it seems like Book Gale still might have a chance. And the books present a more potent love triangle overall, no doubt helped by Katniss’s ever-present inner monologue — which gives her more of an opportunity to her express intentions. But it’s not just emotional: Book Gale and Book Katniss are a lot more touchy-feely in Mockingjay. He caresses her cheek (“They’ll mostly be worried about how you’re handling it.” Gale touches my cheek. “Like I am.”); he grabs her hand (“Our hands find each other, holding fast to a part of 12 that Snow has somehow failed to destroy.”); she grabs his (“My fingers wrap around Gale’s wrist. “Do not leave my side,” I say under my breath.”). And unlike on film, their touch feels charged, not just comforting: “I shift onto my side and find myself looking directly into Gale’s eyes. For an instant the world recedes and there is just his flushed face, his pulse visible at his temple, his lips slightly parted as he tries to catch his breath.” Katniss may be as undecided as ever, but Team Gale still has a chance.
But part of the issue is also about Book Katniss versus Movie Katniss. Mockingjay — Part 1 would rather Katniss be a conflicted hero instead of a romantic lead. This is clear: She stands alone in the film’s advertising, suited up in armor, ready for war. Hey, this is a good thing! It’s rare that we get a female action-hero lead, especially one as headstrong and competent as Katniss Everdeen.
But let’s be real: Despite the rumoriest of rumors about Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth being “open to romance,” (ha-ha, okay) it’s hard to deny that throughout the Hunger Games movies, she clearly has the best chemistry with Peeta’s Josh Hutcherson. Onscreen, they’re both convincing enough. But offscreen, they light up around each other: goofing off during press tours, pranking and teasing, pretending to be cats. Phasing out Gale (and Liam!) might not just be in service of the story. Just look at this photo, which we shall overinterpret as classic third-wheel body language:
With Mockingjay — Part 1 featuring more Hemsworth than ever, it was finally Gale’s time to shine: Film Gale is quite literally back in the picture, and this time, it’s Peeta who barely appears. Alas, Team Gale, Mockingjay — Part 1 has cut you off at the knees. Film Katniss made up her mind before this movie even started.