As I watched The Comey Rule, I had to remind myself about what I wrote in the introduction for FBI Myths and Misconceptions. When fiction writers are crafting books and scripts, the most important thing is the story. There is a precarious relationship between reality and the creative process. The writer’s job is to pull the reader or viewer into the story and eliminate distractions that may shatter those connections, even if it means cutting facts and creating alternative ones. This is the case even when the story is true. That’s why the words “based on a true story” or “based on actual events” often appear alongside the title in the opening credits. Because of all the speculation and hype surrounding the “real” story of the FBI’s investigations affecting the 2016 elections, I wanted to review The Comey Rule, now streaming on Showtime, from a factual foundation. Therefore, I first read October Surprise by Devlin Barrett, a journalist with the Washington Post. Devlin and I have emailed each other about my podcast, and we have a mutual respect for each other’s work. His well-researched book helped me determine what was fact and what was fictionalized.
My plan was to review The Comey Rule for FBI cliches and misconceptions. While watching, I took notes. The two-part miniseries is a fictionalized version of what happened back in 2016 and 2017. So, of course, they would make creative compromises, such as there being no mention of Comey’s son. I know he has one because I once heard him say his son wanted to be an agent and hoped that his father wouldn’t ruin his chances. Good luck with that. The infamous text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page were instead uttered during hotel pillow talk. And the agents walking around FBI Headquarters wearing those navy blue nylon raid jackets with the gold FBI letters. What was that about? They are called “raid” jackets for a reason.
Initially, I was watching the show strictly for its entertainment value, but that soon changed. I grew quiet and put down my pen and notebook. Reading a book about the events surrounding FBI leadership, Hilary’s emails, Russian interference, Comey’s lane violations, and Trump’s retaliation was cerebral. Watching the drama unfold right before my eyes was emotional. To be honest, at the conclusion of part one and part two, I wiped away a tear or two. What I watched was an American tragedy that ended with much of the country questioning the actions of FBI leadership and the President of the United States. The show doesn’t make any of the players look good. My opinion regarding the FBI remains the same. I still believe intentions were pure, but major mistakes were made. I can’t treat The Comey Rule as just another TV show and write my usual review. So that’s why this isn’t. If you care about the FBI and plan to watch The Comey Rule, have a box of tissues or perhaps a punching bag nearby. It all depends on how you express your emotions. Watch the trailer here.
By Devlin Barrett
A dark true-life thriller with historic consequences set at the most crucial moment in the electoral calendar, October Surprise covers the 2016 Election where American political history was forever altered by decisions made by the leadership of the FBI. It’s a comprehensive narrative of events and a must read!