Say what you will about the people behind it, but the events of the 2016 election make for great drama. With everything that has unfolded, there were shades of cartoonish news that made addicting television. Like just about any piece of real-world news, the eventual Hollywood adaption (in either TV or Film) is inevitable. Showtime's latest mini-series, “The Comey Rule” covers the ground we’ve been following for years. Over the two parts combining near five-hour runtime, we follow the 2016 election and investigation into Hillary Clinton, all the way to James Comey (Jeff Daniels) being fired as the director of the FBI by Donald Trump (Brendan Gleeson). You have two prolific actors who certainly aren’t hard to engage with, but when the world around them is so hollow it’s hard to get invested.
The fault really seems to reside in Director and Creator Billy Ray focusing on all the wrong details. I would be lying if I did not say that the opening moments certainly start with a bang. Using a particular song about James Comey, the episode sets a certain image of what you'd expect. It is at this moment that you will start to think the show taking a satirical approach to the material. Unfortunately, that is not the case due to the straight-laced way the story is told.
Throughout this first part, the feeling of Ray rushing to make this content holds it from its full potential. Thankfully, our lead performers (Daniels and Gleeson) do fine work on “Night Two” which makes up for “Night One’s” shortcomings. Especially in the case of his portrayal of the 45th President, which is an absolute force of nature. From his introduction at a meeting in Trump Tower, Gleeson owns every moment he’s on-screen. He’s creepy, dark and downright strange in his portrayal of Donald Trump which is incredibly compelling to watch. In the world we’re living in now, a performance like this will stir a lot of opinions. With a performance this strong, that is entirely feasible since it deserves serious awards praise.
In the case of Daniels, we get something entirely parallel to Gleeson’s villainous turn. Some will call Comey a straight man, (as many publications would agree) but Daniels does something exceptionally different. He brings humanity that simply resides in his eyes when the bad starts to happen. That may not sound like much, but in playing someone real, it’s hard to make a real person feel authentic. Even having two knockout lead performances, it’s the supporting players that fall short. In the portrayals of characters like Sally Yates (Holly Hunter), Michael Flynn (William Sader) and Rod Rosenstein (Scoot McNairy) they certainly aren’t bad performances. It’s just that they feel as if it’s actors dressing up, instead of real human beings like it should be.
“The Comey Rule” essentially plays like political theater on the small screen, which may not be to everyone’s liking. The performances from our leads are incredibly strong (even award-worthy), but the world around them isn’t steeped in the realism it should. That is certainly not a fault of the series supporting players, it just feels as if the project was rushed to our screens. With the context of the show still unfolding, it’s hard to manipulate into an arch for an audience to follow. Without the right hooks to get an audience invested emotionally, the drama just unfolds as overly staged. “The Comey Rule” isn’t a bad show, it’s just one that doesn’t quite satisfy what we may want.