National Post (Latest Edition)

Comey series is as smug as its subject

- Daniel D’addario

The Comey Rule Debuts Sunday, Crave

The first character we hear speak in The Comey Rule, Showtime’s two- episode limited series about the unhappy tenure of the former FBI director, is not James Comey at all.

Instead, it’s former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, played by Scoot Mcnairy, who starts us off, pulling Comey’s memoir A Higher Loyalty from a shelf and complainin­g about its self-dramatizin­g antics.

“In governance, there are people who do the work and there are showboats,” Rosenstein says. “Jim was always a showboat.”

Not even most Comey fans might contest this point. Comey’s late reopening of the case against Hillary Clinton is seen by many as decisive in delivering the election to Donald Trump.

But the man himself has tended to depict it as a personal drama in which he played hero — an argument compelling enough to a segment of the audience to have made his book a bestseller, and to have generated this show.

The title of his memoir says it all: For Comey, the most recent presidenti­al contest came down to a war staged within himself, in which pragmatism or a willingnes­s to cede the stage was superseded by a devotion to ideals that he doesn’t mind telling you are lofty. That makes Jeff Daniels, who on HBO’S The Newsroom played a media figure who became famous and beloved for lecturing people, an apt casting choice.

Comey’s story, here, is neatly divided in two. In the first episode (beginning after Comey’s fall but then flashing back), we see Comey’s rise at the FBI and his tenure there before Trump, leading up to election night 2016.

The next instalment depicts Comey’s slow- motion fall, as the president his decisions helped create seeks in Comey an ally, and then torches him for insufficie­nt dedication to the cause of Trump, played by Brendan Gleeson as a wheedling, insidious figure whose flashes of rage punctuate a sort of mafioso finesse.

The show’s narrative cleanness — the upswing and the downswing, a big rupture in the centre, and values carried throughout — generates a sort of tidiness throughout that looks a lot like writerly laziness. Russian operatives are shown toasting their victory in the street before an onscreen chyron hits reading Election Day.

The movie bends and strains to accommodat­e Comey’s showy displays of duty and righteousn­ess, such that by the time he meets Trump, Comey has had anything about him that we might grip onto sandblaste­d away by honour. What might have been a human tragedy about a man whose belief in the purity of institutio­ns led to those same institutio­ns’ coming apart under a tyrant is, instead, largely a fable about a hero.

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