The ‘Murder, mayhem and madness’ continues as promised in the second season of ‘Tiger King.’ The new episodes delve into what happened after the release of ‘Tiger King’ on Netflix. Season one was a guilty pleasure for people worldwide who binge-watched the series during the initial lockdown phase. ‘Tiger King’ was everything one could have asked from a docu-series, with the drama that unfolded in the pursuit of owning the big cats. It was not just the entertainment aspect that made the series an immersive watch but also the way it brought forward the network and politics attached to the private zoo culture in the United States.
‘Tiger King Season 1’ ended with the Tiger King, Joe Exotic, behind bars for an attempt to murder charge of Carole Baskin while Jeff Lowe took over Exotic’s zoo ‘The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park’ in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. The new season starts with how the reception of ‘Tiger King’ changed the cast members’ lives, from Jeff and Lauren Lowe to even Dillion Passage, Joe’s second husband. This time, the series is all about searching for answers to the questions that arose from the first season, who killed Don Lewis? The Carole Baskin controversy; Was Joe Exotic framed for the attempt to murder of Carole Baskin? Along with exploring new subjects such as Tim Stark and documenting his downfall.
Joe Exotic remains behind bars throughout the series but continues to make statements through video calls. Exotic’s hysterical music video features in the very first episode. He even conducts a contest to find a boyfriend owing to Dillion Passage’s disinterest, and he is successful in the venture by the end of the series. The quirks that made ‘Tiger King’ a binge-worthy watch remain, but the second season does not appeal like the first one. As a viewer, you might have to watch two episodes to really get hooked to the new season. Having said so, the difficulties associated with unraveling a story set in the current time are undeniable. A lot of it does not seem to be in control of the producers. Maybe, the spontaneity makes ‘Tiger King’ an exciting but challenging view for the makers.
The series has several hilarious ‘white American’ moments, when the Exotic advocates join a Trump meet by hoisting banners which read ‘Pardon Joe Exotic,’ referring to the Presidential pardon that Exotic’s lawyers filed for, a Trump supporter sporting a “Make America great again” flag. The position of Joe Exotic, even among the Republicans, is an embarrassment. The docu-series shifted its focus from the failed Presidential pardon to the question of ‘Who killed Don Lewis?’. The ongoing investigation is dealt with in detail; theories pertaining to how Carole Baskin might have been involved in the disappearance are explained by an internet sleuth new to the Tiger King series named Ripper Jack.
The search for an answer leads Don Lewis’s daughters to involve a medium who could trace the death of their father, reaching to an almost absurd ending. What starts with a logical question, ‘where is Don Lewis?’ later leads to a supernatural quest to find the father as a quick fix against the long logical legal trail. Right after the Carole Baskin story, we have the Tim Stark story where the gruesome face of exotic animal owners is revealed. Thanks to Peta for looking into the malpractices performed at the non-profit named ‘Wildlife in Need’ and taking legal action, the new season documents how Tim Stark lost it all.
Tim Stark is another example of a cishet white man who blames his bad temper on ‘Tim’ and believes in the existence of his other personality, Sue, who is his good side. Tim Stark highlights the white man’s obsession with property rights to the point of even saying that he might consume the flesh of his exotic animals as he owns them. He even threatens those taking action against him online with a grenade in hand, which was later found to be a plastic one gifted to him by a kid.
The real plot twist arises from the question is ‘Joe Exotic guilty of attempt to murder?’. The theories change, the anti-Joe squad shifts their position, and many dirty truths are spewed in this big cat circus. Tiger King delivers iconic real-life characters who are amusing to watch but, at the same time, terrible to think about in terms of real-world implications of their actions. This season stresses on the most crucial concern, saving the big cats. The importance of protecting the wildlife and the need to diminish the private zoo practice that profits from taming the wild beings.
The second season seems like a stretch at parts, with no particular story to follow. The linearity of storytelling is missing, bringing together multiple characters and several unanswered questions in the form of a docu-series. Every character this season is thirsting for fame and adding their opinion or experience with the exotic animal owners. The circus is fun to watch but only up to a point beyond which it becomes a drag, and it is almost shameful to watch vastly problematic men fighting to keep and exploit the big cats. Even though ‘Tiger King’ as a series has helped bring forward the private zoo and exotic animal keeping circuit, a new season could have either been avoided or made with enough time to prevent the chaotic storytelling that has taken place this season.
Tiger King is a Biographical Crime Documentary directed by Rebecca Chaiklin (Season 1) and Eric Goode (Season 2). It is streaming on Netflix.