Tiger King 2 is a follow-up to Tiger King on Netflix, which took the world by storm during the lockdown in 2020
During the great lockdown of 2020, a number of new fads popped up as people were forced to stay indoors in social isolation for months. Amongst the fitness craze and dalgona coffee, there was Tiger King: Murder, Madness and Mayhem, a lockdown guilty pleasure on Netflix watched by millions. Although it was meant to be classed as a documentary, it turned into more of a human circus rather than an investigative show as many documentaries tend to do.
Having stuck through the entirety of the first series, we learned that Joe Exotic, a YouTuber, failed political candidate and tiger park owner had been sent to prison to serve a 22 year sentence for plotting the murder of a competitor. Carole Baskin, the intended victim, was also a tiger park owner, particularly passionate about animal rights, who drew the ire of Joe Exotic, enough for him to plot her murder and go to prison for it. The first season gave us an insight into Joe Exotic’s bizarre life; each episode underscoring an outlandish incident that highlighted the pandemonium within the apparently ungoverned tiger park community. As the series progressed, a staff member lost half their arm to a big cat, Joe Exotic’s husband shot himself by accident and another park owner used adorable tigers to lure women into sexual scenarios with his wife and himself. And although Carole Baskin was the opposite of everything else that the series represented, she was still enough of a ‘weirdo’ to pique the director’s interest. With her bright, floral clothing and trademark flower crown, Baskin was sensitive and breezy. Exotic was brash and reckless, which unsurprisingly led to conflict between the two. The first series left us with the mystery of Carole Baskin’s first husband, Don Lewis, who disappeared in 1997 and has yet to surface.
The follow-up to the original series, Tiger King 2, dropped on Netflix only recently, and it is plagued by an issue that most documentaries face; living up to the original in terms of hype and viewer interest. With Joe Exotic still serving his sentence in prison, there is no new footage of him, his outlandish antics or his very ‘colorful’ tirades on YouTube. The first episode circumvents the lack of footage by digging deeper into his life, going back to a tragic death in the family and his earlier experiences with homophobia that came with being raised in the rural south of the USA. It appears to be a sympathy grab meant to explain some of his narcissistic behavior throughout the series.
Although there is something to be said about the modern American culture of advocating for problematic personalities in the face of evidence and testimonies, Joe Exotic’s followers may be onto something as his co-conspirators are now beginning to change their tune regarding the original series of events.
Furthermore, Carole Baskin refused to play this time round, which has made the second series a lot less interesting. Although the directors have incorporated footage from her YouTube channel, it does not have the same effect as direct footage like the previous series. Episodes 2 and 3 regurgitate the topic of Don Lewis’ disappearance. In the first season, Joe Exotic assumed that Carole Baskin had murdered her husband as he was allegedly siphoning money from the business to escape to Costa Rica. These facts make up most of the Episodes 2 and 3, featuring an unsuccessful cast of lurid characters engaging in hearsay and wild accusations regarding gang involvement, trucks full of guns and private planes.
Moving onto the last two episodes, Joe Exotic’s conviction is thoroughly analysed to see if it will continue to hold up in appeal court. It covers a campaign by his followers to get him out of prison through a presidential pardon by Donald Trump that very nearly came to fruition. It also showcases the dedication of Joe Exotic’s followers, who sport Free Joe Exotic tattoos and vehicles covered in tiger stripes to show solidarity. His followers stand firm that Carole Baskin has been lying about the disappearance of her husband. They maintain that she murdered him and fed his remains to the big cats at her sanctuary. Although there is something to be said about the modern American culture of advocating for problematic personalities in the face of evidence and testimonies, Joe Exotic’s followers may be onto something as his alleged co-conspirators are now beginning to change their tune regarding the events.
Tiger King 2 lacks the advantage afforded to its predecessor by the pandemic. It has failed to make up for that with a better storyline that doesn’t just elaborate or repeat everything that has already been said. The series lurches between blatant sensationalism and pseudo-factualism, which makes it very confusing for the viewer (unless you’re a hardcore Joe Exotic fan). This is a Netflix series that viewers can skip until they have absolutely nothing better to do.
The author is a staff member and politics and international relations graduate from the University of Hertfordshire.