What Happened to Seneca Crane?

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It is strange that a character who was not even mentioned by name in the first installment of The Hunger Games ended up changing the entire course of the story. Seneca Crane planned the 74th (and most controversial) Hunger Games, which also marked his third year as the Head Gamemaker (according to the films). He had a much larger role in the movie, in which he was portrayed by Wes Bentley (best known for Interstellar, Ghost Rider, American Beauty). As producer Nina Jacobson told The Hollywood Reporter, “We […] felt he had the sophistication to capture the arrogance and intelligence of Seneca without becoming a mustache-twirling cliché.”

Under pressure to provide amusement to the Capitol, Seneca Crane ended up making choices in The Hunger Games that eventually brought about a revolution and the downfall of his utopian city.


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Who Was Seneca Crane?

Seneca Crane with President Snow in The Hunger Games

As the Head Gamemaker, Seneca Crane was not only responsible for designing the arena, but also coordinating game play and creating obstacles for the tributes. He recognized the importance of theatrics and the need to exploit the tributes’ weaknesses for morbid entertainment. Moreover, his cold and calculated decisions maintained the Capitol’s dominance over the oppressed districts – a necessary reminder after the Dark Days.

During Katniss’ private session with the Gamemakers before her entrance into the Games, she demonstrated her shooting skills but was largely ignored by the judges, who were distracted by the banquet table. Frustrated, she ended up shooting an arrow straight into an apple lodged in the mouth of a roast pig, and walked out without waiting to be dismissed. Surprisingly, Seneca Crane ended up giving her a training score of 11 (out of a possible 12) — the highest among all the tributes. As Haymitch explained:

They’ve got a show to put on. They need some players with some heat.

However, in the film, President Snow rebuked Seneca Crane for rewarding Katniss for what he considered to be an act of defiance. He warned him about the possible consequences (“A lot of hope is dangerous”), and told him to control the situation.

When the tributes were in the battleground, Seneca Crane orchestrated every element of the arena, including releasing muttations in the forest or creating a wall of fire when the Games were apparently “verging on dullness.” In the film, he was even shown taking pleasure in being the puppet master and bringing about the tributes’ deaths. Most notably, he catered to the audience’s growing interest in Katniss and Peeta’s supposed love story by introducing a new rule of having two winners if both tributes are from the same district. The film differs from the book in this aspect: as Rue’s death (and Katniss’ influence) causes riots in District 11, Haymitch suggests implementing the said rule, in order to give the audience “something to root for”. Although Snow showed displeasure about indulging the “underdog,” the Gamemaker announced the change anyway.

It seemed like Seneca Crane only wanted a climactic ending to his game. When only Peeta and Katniss remained in the arena, he revoked the rule. However, it also became apparent that he was a failure when it came to making quick decisions; he got flustered when both the tributes refused to kill each other, and allowed them to live when they threatened to eat the poisonous nightlock berries. Although his hasty decision was just to save face, it revealed a chink in the Capitol’s armor. The fact that a rule was broken undermined the Hunger Games’ agenda, making the rebels realize their power once again.

What Happened to Seneca Crane?

Katniss writes Seneca Crane's name on a dummy in The Hunger Games

By letting Katniss challenge the Capitol’s authority, Seneca Crane inadvertently set the stage for the districts’ second rebellion — and his own death. Although the details of his execution were not given in the books, he was dead by the time of the Victory Tour in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. As Snow himself informed Katniss:

If the Head Gamemaker, Seneca Crane, had had any brains, he’d have blown you to dust right then. But he had an unfortunate sentimental streak […] Can you guess where he is?

At the end of the first film of The Hunger Games, the Peacekeepers locked Seneca Crane in a room with a bowl of nightlock berries. Viewers can infer that he either died of starvation, or by giving in and ingesting the poison. For the 75th Hunger Games, he was replaced by Plutarch Heavensbee as Head Gamemaker.

During her individual session with the Gamemakers for the third Quarter Quell, Katniss once again attempted to break through their “smug veneer.” She fashioned a noose and placed it around the neck of one of the target dummies. She then used the chin-up bars to hang the dummy and painted Seneca Crane’s name on its body with berry juice — thus, sending a message that they are not invulnerable to the Capitol’s cruelties either. As a result of her symbolic attack, Katniss received a score of 12 — making her the other victors’ top target in the Games.

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