Tiger King 2 on Netflix Looks in Joe Exotic’s Cage, Finds Very Little

Tiger King 2 returns to the wild world of Netflix’s hit true crime documentary.


Tiger King 2 came out of his cage. Everyone’s gone crazy for the bizarre real-crime documentary at the start of the pandemic, and now Netflix is ​​revisiting Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin, and the nutcases and wannabes roaming the wild world of American animal sanctuaries. Expanding its reach, Tiger King 2 is a snapshot of the modern era, from the dirty roadside zoo to the besieged US Capitol. And his really depressing.

When the world turned upside down in 2020, we were all looking for some sort of shared experience, and many of us found it in this streaming series stranger than fiction. This has eccentric characters like country-charismatic Joe Exotic, one or two unsolved mysteries and salacious twists at every turn. In addition to animals! There was an element of pointing and laughing to Tiger King’s frenzy, but, my word, we needed a laugh back then. And we still do. The problem is, the novelty of the first season’s reveal has given way to a stumbling parade of struggling people still doing things that are a little bit crazy and pretty bad, but most of all hopelessly sad.

The new season opens with stay-at-home orders shutting down the United States in March 2020. A suddenly turned world has gone even crazier as the Netflix hit inspired TikTok dances and memes, and even the president of the united states joked about it. In a Season 2 makeover, the documentary chronicles events that it also influenced. The people featured cannot escape their fame even if they try to exploit it. They are even recognized by cops when they are arrested for drunk driving. But most sinister is the reaction from viewers who take sides, with many calling for the freedom of Joe Exotic and the helm of Carole Baskin.

Baskin is out of time for the people behind the Netflix documentary, but appears in clips recounting the heinous abuse sent to him by viewers. Some overzealous viewers have even taken on the role of amateur sleuths and delved into the mystery of Baskin’s ex-husband Don Lewis, who disappeared in 1997. The documentary devotes not one but two episodes to his case, these people saying very little of anything.

If the theme of the first series was the insane lengths people like Joe would take in pursuit of validation through attention and fame, this series highlights people who are desperately trying to fit into those stories. Among the footage is a motif of people shooting powerful guns in their backyards, whether it’s a Joe target or a pumpkin like Carol’s head. And we meet the affair-obsessed YouTubers Don Lewis, or private investigator Eric Love, who runs “Team Tiger” in an over-the-top attempt to secure a presidential pardon for Joe despite never having met him.

Joe Exotic finds himself in a cage in Tiger King 2.


Joe Exotic himself, hero of the confinement, is meanwhile stuck in a little more permanent confinement. “It would be nice if I could see myself being famous,” he says over a phone line from Texas Federal Prison, as Jeff, John and Joshua draw crowds and raise money for selfies. In this series, Joe functions as a sort of Greek choir, commenting on people and events. But the show looks a lot like the roadside zoos it was exhibiting: without the guilty distraction of a colorful ringmaster, the circus turns out to be apathetic and traumatized caged animals. And it’s not fun at all.

So, the new series investigates whether Joe’s infamous zoo owner Jeff Lowe and his pal Allen Glover were telling the truth when they testified that Joe planned to kill rival sanctuary owner Carole Baskin. There’s also a full episode dedicated to the heinous and villainous cartoonish shrine owner Tim Stark. The series culminates in a revelation that Joe’s lawyer speaks like a shocking game changer, but for the rest of us it surely smacks of just another round of selfish bickering.

Even if you are invested in these personalities, the second season passes mostly on familiar ground as the seedy crew argue over who said what and who framed who and who just wants to be famous. If there’s a real reason to go back to the story, it’s to see how the whole side show intertwines with bigger stories in this crazy age. Tiger King becomes a lens for viewing our modern world.

The Tiger King phenomenon is inextricably linked with COVID. That says a lot about social media and the nature of celebrity in the digital age. It highlights the mistrust of the media, experts and authorities. We even touch on the relationship between Donald Trump and his supporters in the heart of the United States: Luckily, Team Tiger was there the day the Americans proclaimed themselves patriots stormed the Capitol.

Crime in fiction, and in particular in real detective fiction, will always offer a thrill of pleasure and fear. Part of the real crime is voyeurism, part of vicarious thrill, part of a desire for sensational entertainment. Tiger King was guilty pleasure, but looking back into the cage is deeply disheartening. As Joe Exotic put it on the phone from prison, “Welcome to my world of bullshit.”

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