The reason season four works so well is that, despite the utterly awful conditions in which the boys live, they remain children. The opening of “Alliances” demonstrates this perfectly with them still being childish enough to scare one another with stories about zombies. What starts as an attempt to frighten Randy ends up scaring all four boys as a dope fiend (an appropriate zombie if ever there was one) staggers out of an alley. What makes this scene more than cute chuckles is that these four boys are already hanging out in a west side alley at night, unphased by the sounds of sirens and gunfire. They are, quite naturally, desensitized to the world around them but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t still innocents.
Stories about growing up invariably involve the loss of innocence and so we dread what must lie in store for children already raised by drug dealers and dope fiends. Michael would seem to be the most mature among them, being the de-facto parent for his younger brother, and so it’s appropriate that he be the first one thrust into an adult world. What’s ironic is that Chris’ offer challenges one of the things that we associate with Michael’s alleged maturity, his independence. Not wanting to owe favours, particularly to drug dealers, is a very adult attitude… or is it? A drug addicted mother and a brother in need of care are hardly something a thirteen year old should be dealing with on his own and, in light of this, the insistence on independence seems a little immature.
Chris’ offer of assistance and protection makes a lot of sense, particularly under the circumstances, and Michael’s demeanor makes clear that he’s not actually equipped to be swimming in adult waters. Tristan Wilds has done a great job with Michael all season and he’s in fine form here, unable to meet Chris or Snoop’s eye and merely muttering refusals to join Marlow’s crew. He clearly lacks the confidence necessary for the independence he values so much. There’s no sinister or ulterior motive in Chris’ offer. He and Marlow see a young man with potential and he straightforwardly offers to exchange what Chris needs for what they need. It’s telling that, this time, Michael keeps the money he’s given.
Does “growing up” mean becoming a drug dealer? That’s a frightening prospect, but it doesn’t make it an incorrect one. Common wisdom holds that a life of crime is a mistake, something that young people fall into, but what if it’s really the smart choice? How long is Michael going to be able to hold things together? Chris seems to be offering a real solution and not considering it would be the real mistake.
They boys are scarred of zombies but willing to check out a dead body in the vacant. Fear is rooted in the unknown and it makes a tragic kind of sense that these kids are better able to cope with murder over disappearances.
I for one assumed that the other boys had abandoned Michael when Chris came to meet him, it was great to see them keeping an eye out.
Chris’ straightforward offer of mutual assistance is sharply contrasted with all the shifting alliances at city hall in this episode.
It was great to see Marimow confronted with his own incompetence.
Equally great, Donut breaking into Prez’s car after he locks his keys inside.
I really love the ubiquitous campaign signs this season and how utterly irrelevant they are to the kids, the people who actually need help the most.