Tiger King 2  Netflix Review: The sequel season to the smash hit docuseries has already lost it’s potency
Tiger King Season 2 Netflix Review: Had 2020 been just a usual year, Tiger King would only be a digestible junk-filled addition to the Netflix library of documentaries. It definitely wouldn’t be the cause of such notoriety. However, the current world we live in is significantly different, and Tiger King came out during those first few months of the pandemic when everyone found themselves in the four walls of their home, and Netflix streaming became almost a necessity for the maintenance of sanity.
The saga of Joe Maldonado-Passage, known professionally as Joe Exotic, took everyone by storm because of how unapologetic Joe Exotic was. Dubbing himself the Tiger King, Joe was one of the notable private zoo owners who had a private zoo of 224 Tigers. He was also a reality TV show star and a country singer. And the first season ended with Joe in jail. He was accused of attempting to hire hitmen to kill Carole Baskin. Carole was the CEO of Big Cat Rescue, a non-profit animal sanctuary near Tampa Florida, and one of the dissidents against Joe’s zoo.
There wasn’t a specific pitch on how someone could have sold the show, except to say, “Look how crazy and delusional these people are.” The other far more critical pitch for the show is to showcase the destruction left in the wake of Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin, Jeff Lowe, Doc Antle and all their shady dealings and hijinks. The almost brazen attitude of the characters and especially the protagonist made ‘Tiger King’ into one of the most binge-able shows you can consume.
Tiger King Season 2 opens immediately following the events of Season 1. You may realize with a sinking heart that you might have forgotten the events of the previous season. And, that necessarily isn’t the fault of the viewers per se. Because as compelling in his unpredictability Joe Exotic was, he wasn’t exactly the characters you would root for in a series. The biggest issue which Season 2 have in Season 1’s almost fiery wake is that the novelty is lost. Primarily because Joe is currently in jail, most of his interviews are recorded over zoom calls.
Carole Baskin’s testimonies are usually her internet videos dubbed “The Carole Diaries”, as she refused to participate in these interviews. Doc Antle has also refused to take part. So what Season 2 has to do is work with leftovers. It’s not that storylines couldn’t be done or completed with intriguing directions. There are lots of questions still unanswered when Season 2 begins – “whether Carole Baskin truly killed her husband or was Joe Exotic framed? and the last but most important question – whether we should care to watch this show anymore?”
The first question isn’t definitively answered, but the series gives deeper context to the disappearance of Don Lewis, Carole Baskin’s husband. If Episode 1 was a recap and a reminder of the world you are diving back in, Episode 2 and 3 were the Don Lewis and Carol Baskin show, dealing with the disappearance, and this is the only time the show feels like a legitimate, true-crime show.
Dealing with the investigation of both actual homicide detectives and internet sleuths, the two-episode saga is both interesting while also maintaining that cringe humour which was a staple of Tiger King but doesn’t overpower the narrative. Even though the investigation is still ongoing at present, it does provide a compelling and interesting backstory, but from an overall big picture standpoint, these 2 episodes feel very disconnected from the Joe Exotic narrative.
The last 2 episodes in the 5 episode season finally start dealing with the fallout of the first season and answering whether Joe was framed. And here is where the flaws of the show truly get revealed. Joe Exotic’s larger than life personality was what held the first season together and made it compelling. With his absence and the show’s focus on characters like Jeff Lowe and Tim Stark, what exactly amounts to nasty people saying nasty comments about each other, and the results are far more unpleasant than entertaining. The overall vibe that it gives off is tawdry. So when the revelation that Joe might be framed finally kicks in, the feeling is of simultaneous relief as well as exasperation. On the one hand, the meat of the story is finally addressed, but on the other, as the show ends you realize that Netflix is keeping the story open for a potential third season, and an audible groan escapes from my lips.
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The final question thus can be addressed as such – Tiger King Season 2 is already more directionless and pointless than the previous season. The point of view characters are far more unpleasant and irritating than entertaining or compelling, and the cringe humour can only carry goodwill across the finish line for so long.
The bigger statement, that all the tigers from the private zoo are sent to wildlife sanctuaries is the only silver lining in this morass of unpleasantness, but other than that there isn’t any deeper sense of commentary here. In the end when Joe Exotic states that “Being locked in a cage for more than 2 years has made me realize how my animals felt. I can only hope that I get a second chance like them”, it’s hard to feel anything. He might get absolved of wrongdoings and get out, but if he does, I am not going to watch the next Netflix continuation of Joe Exotic’s dating life.