Sunday, September 27, 2020

REVIEW: 'The Comey Rule' - James Comey's Tenure at the FBI Is Dominated by Massive Political Investigations in 'Night One'

Showtime's The Comey Rule - Episode 1.01 "Night One"

James Comey interviews with President Obama and gets the job of a lifetime, Director of the FBI. But two years into his tenure, the Bureau is plunged into two hugely controversial cases: "Midyear Exam," the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails while serving as Secretary of State, and "Crossfire Hurricane," an investigation into Russia's ongoing attempts to derail the Presidential Election of 2016. Comey's decisions on those two cases will alter both his place in history and history itself.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Showtime's The Comey Rule.

"Night One" was written by Billy Ray and directed by Billy Ray

People across the political spectrum are unified in having complicated and conflicting feelings towards James Comey, the former Director of the FBI. Liberals view his actions as being directly responsible for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton losing the 2016 presidential election during the final weeks of the campaign. Conservatives view his actions as undermining President Donald J. Trump's administration in the first few months that have created lasting uncertainty across the years that followed. This miniseries event hopes to depict the story from Comey's perspective. It's based on the novel that the real-life figure wrote. As such, it presents the man as someone with a strong adherence to his own personal set of morals and ideals. Yes, they sometimes go hand-in-hand with the mentality and culture of the Bureau. Other times, he pushes back against the norms because of his rigid hold on the idea that truth and justice go above all else. He becomes a tragic figure destined to implode because his mentality no longer functions in a post-truth world. The 2016 presidential election was dominated by two investigations into the competing candidates. One was incredibly public facing while the other was allowed to operate in secret. Everyone was obsessed over every single development and detail with the investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server. It resulted in Comey believing the Bureau had to make a public statement outlining its work and what led to its final decision not to recommend any charges. He made the decision because he is an honest man who understood that the world needed more than what the system would typically dictate. But the constant analysis over the best action to take seemingly always creates a situation where every outcome is bad. Comey is trying his best to choose the least worst option. He is more than willing to be the target of vitriol. He only needs his family and his colleagues to support and understand his decision. But he remains a complicated figure. One faced with an incredible burden. When he took the job, Comey was told by his predecessor Robert Mueller to get out by the time his tenure is up. It's not a profession that is worthy of being extended because of some great need to serve the country in its time of need. Comey believes he can put away the bad guys. And yet, everyone has a public opinion about who they think is bad and why they should be jailed. That political bias infects the FBI as well. People voice their support or disdain of Clinton. Those comments are allowed to be made. Everything remains very confidential about what is happening with the Russia investigation. The details at this point are unknown and unverified. The accusation is damning and could suggest a successful Russian operation to undermine the entire American experiment. Everything could implode because of this attack on our democracy. The audience is still living through all of this as well. We have the benefit and horror of hindsight to know just how damning all of these actions will become. People in FBI offices contemplate how history will view these decisions and how the public will react. It's the same debate that happens over and over again. Both sides have their narratives and will use whatever details allow them to continue pushing them forward. Comey wants to rise above politics. He has no interest in that profession. And yet, this job has become political. That's horrifying and he is slow to realize that.

It's more than just a commentary on this one election. Consequences will soon become apparent regarding the election of Donald Trump. He is a foreboding presence at the moment. One quick to call out the hypocrisies he believes are apparent when the real world systems are never that malicious or well coordinated. However, the show wants to just stick to the facts while depicting Comey's sense of higher purpose in doing this job. As such, details are still murky. Who is truly to blame for the delay in getting the newly discovered emails from the New York field office? Was it Andrew McCabe or Peter Strzok? Does it matter in the end? It obviously did. These are human beings with flaws. They make mistakes. Not enough time is truly devoted to nuance though. Every decision weighs on Comey as he deals with this job. It's tense because of the pressures unique to this timeframe. The pressure builds and builds. He has to be nonpartisan with every action. The world doesn't act that way. But they hold people to different standards as well. Remember, when it was a huge breech of trust and confidence when the Attorney General had a meeting with someone who would be a key beneficiary should an official investigation go a certain way? That norm has gone flying out the window four years later. This show does depict how Comey's tenure at the FBI was the first step of disappearing norms in the federal government over the last few years. This time has shown just how fragile our democracy can truly be. It's not particularly out of malice. It's one person's belief that his sense of morals will always guide him correctly. That isn't true. But Comey is hardly the only person with that particular personal failing. Rod Rosenstein is similarly a pompous weasel who demeans Comey despite previously wanting to earn good favor from him. And again, the audience benefits from knowing some of the heinous actions taken later on by some of these figures. We're still living with the consequences and destruction. But it's still important to see this story. It highlights how the idea of noble men upholding our country's institutions is always an admirable goal. It may be a fleeting reality. And yet, good things can still be done as Sally Yates notes. Those moments just seem too far and few in between. That's demoralizing and depressing. Election night was a sucker punch to so many. Comey is always indifferent to that and the role he played in shaping the future of the country. He may be benefiting from hindsight on his actions as well. It may be too late. This introspection can only do so much for him personally. These are unique times. The system has failed too many people. Some ideals are worthy to uphold. It's also important to know when to break some of the traditions. Too much of that behavior can easily lead down a slippery slope towards authoritarianism. Recognizing that and holding all people accountable is necessary. It's just up in the air as to whether or not anyone can truly do that now considering how the government has failed in the past. Comey tries doing the right thing. He thinks he does. History still judges him harshly.