What was 2020’s Netflix sensation Tiger King actually about? Was it a wild tour by way of the eccentric subculture of entrepreneurs and conservationists who exhibit huge cats in non-public zoos? Or was it a hard-hitting true-crime story about bitter rivals Joe Unique and Carole Baskin, who every might have participated in separate, weird homicide plots? When the docu-series premiered, proper as individuals had been beginning to hunker down at dwelling, avoiding an rising pandemic, what precisely made it so addicting?
These aren’t idle questions. They’re what Tiger King administrators Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin absolutely requested themselves earlier than beginning work on the sequence’ five-episode second season, now obtainable on Netflix. But judging by what they produced, they by no means discovered the solutions. The Tiger King sequel is a irritating mess, with not one of the gripping storytelling that made the unique run such a responsible pleasure.
It’s laborious to determine what this second season is meant to be. The primary episode is probably the most promising one of many entire batch. It takes a bigger take a look at the entire Tiger King phenomenon, recalling how the present swept throughout the USA throughout what turned out to be a really unusual yr for America and the world. The episode captures the numerous ways in which the documentary’s topics turned nearly like fictional characters to the general public, a few of whom dressed up like Joe and Carole for Halloween, or fiercely debated the guilt or innocence of the sequence’ contributors.
Then episodes two and three change course, disappearing as soon as once more down the rabbit gap of the accusations towards Carole Baskin, who — as coated pretty completely in season 1 — has been suspected of foul play within the 1997 disappearance of her rich ex-husband Don Lewis. The brand new materials provides little, apart from contemporary interviews with individuals who rehash quite a lot of the identical info, in tedious element.
Episodes 4 and 5 pivot once more, and performance probably the most like a correct sequel to the primary Tiger King. The primary season uncovered the dearth of governmental oversight at “wildlife encounter” vacationer spots, and drew calls for each from animal-rights activists and from unusual involved residents that the federal government shut down these sketchy operations. The final two episodes of season 2 doc the strain placed on Jeff Lowe and Tim Stark, two of the Joe Unique-like zoo homeowners featured within the earlier run. Defiant to the final, whilst federal brokers roll onto their properties to take their animals away, Lowe and Stark develop more and more frantic, making determined strikes. Their scenes are simply probably the most thrilling of those 5 episodes, although like the remainder of this season, their tales aren’t particularly effectively woven into the entire.
All through all of the episodes, Goode and Chaiklin return often to Joe Unique, nonetheless sitting in jail, the place he’s been following what’s gone on since Tiger King debuted, and hoping somebody from his previous life will step up and assist exonerate him of the cost that he employed a hitman to kill Baskin. The brand new season covers the failed efforts to get Joe a presidential pardon, together with some startling footage of the workforce behind the marketing campaign unfurling a banner at a January sixth D.C. “Cease the Steal” rally, and drawing some offended reactions. Lawyer John Phillips finally strikes from representing Don Lewis’ household (and dropping their belief after convincing them to look in an advert throughout Carole Baskin’s look on Dancing with the Stars) to representing Unique, and making an attempt to get all of the individuals who turned on him to rally to his protection.
However simply as Unique’s case appears about to take a flip in his favor, the season abruptly ends, suggesting that someplace down the street, prefer it or not, we are able to count on a Tiger King season 3. Goode and Chaiklin then tag on an epilogue that’s nearly like an afterthought, revealing the possibly happier futures for all the large cats seized from Stark, Lowe, and Unique.
That epilogue at the least initiatives the sense of function that the remainder of the season is missing. Tiger King is trashy, however season 1 did shine a lightweight on some disturbing mistreatment of animals, and season 2 exhibits that some good was achieved due to it. However the epilogue additionally smacks of self-congratulation — as does the season’s prologue, which celebrates the massive viewers the sequence drew when individuals had been abruptly caught at dwelling final yr, anxious for any form of enjoyable shared expertise.
Additionally, the filmmakers finally double down on a number of the most distasteful parts from their preliminary run. As soon as once more, they let their topics serve up unsubstantiated accusations of legal habits, couched as dishy gossip. They flip actual individuals’s lives and deaths into the stuff of cleaning soap operas, for viewers to snigger at, gasp over, and scrutinize.
In episode 1, at the least, it nearly looks like Tiger King goes to be self-critical, stepping into how the sequence’ topics have been dealing with their newfound fame — which in some circumstances has meant having terrifyingly hateful feedback directed at them, on-line and in public. (Carole Baskin, who has been probably the most criticized, notably doesn’t sit down for a brand new interview on this season, and is currently suing Netflix for together with her in any respect.) Among the new episodes’ most provocative moments return to this concept that sudden superstar can obscure the strains between truth and fiction, like when Don Lewis’ household units up a tip-line about his disappearance, and it’s inevitably will get flooded with calls from individuals who need to share theories they developed solely from watching Tiger King.
And certain, the workforce behind this present nonetheless has a way of what sort of weirdness their followers need to see, whether or not it’s a psychic employed by Don Lewis’ household vomiting as he walks round what he swears is the place the place Lewis was killed, or it’s Jeff Lowe constructing a little bit strip membership in the midst of his zoo, full with a scorching tub suite for when “Shaq and Flav” drop by. The individuals on this microcosm are nonetheless perversely fascinating — and maybe none greater than Tim Stark, who comes throughout just like the poster baby for 2020s “reside free and die” American life, as he insists that nobody can inform him what he can and might’t do with any animal he owns.
Nonetheless, season 1 put all these odd geese in a well-ordered row, telling a narrative with rigorously timed twists on the finish of almost each episode. Season 2, however, continues some components of that story and merely repeats others, haphazardly strewing all these loosely linked items throughout 200 or so shapeless minutes. Possibly we want the feds to step in once more. Can somebody please come alongside and liberate the extra entertaining components of Tiger King?
Season 2 of Tiger King is streaming on Netflix now.