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Joe Exotic in prison in a poster for ‘Tiger King 2,‘ now streaming on Netflix (Photo provided via @lucaslu_ckli on Twitter). 

TV Review: ‘Tiger King 2’ fails to recapture the chaotic magic of its predecessor

True crime is typically enthralling but not usually fun, yet Tiger King’s first season figured out a way to be both. However, its second season didn’t figure out how to be either. 

This could be due to the severe lack of the titular “Tiger King” himself or maybe it’s due to a complete lack of focus throughout its five-episode run. Either way, Tiger King 2 is a complete disappointment.

The second season of Tiger King picks up in 2021, with Joe Exotic in a Texas federal prison for the next 20-odd years, Carole Baskin doing the cha-cha on Dancing With the Stars and Jeff Lowe running the controversial G.W. Zoo in Exotic’s absence. Sadly, nothing notable has really happened since the cameras stopped rolling in 2020, but that didn’t stop Netflix from stretching out 10 minutes of information to a bloated three-and-a-half-hour total runtime.

I wish this wasn’t the case. I wish Tiger King 2 was just as fun and chaotic as it was the first time around, but you can’t catch lightning in a bottle twice, especially when your lightning can only be reached over collect calls from federal prison. It’s a truly unnecessary update to a story that had a conclusion and, now, it’s left open-ended. The documentary screams “cash grab” in almost every conceivable way.

I mentioned before that Exotic barely appears, and that’s the biggest problem with this new season. It’s not even about the “Tiger King;” it’s about everyone else. That’s the main factor behind this season’s complete lack of focus. 

It goes from an episode addressing the Tiger King craze from the last year and change to a serious true-crime documentary. Then, it attempts to go back to the fun and chaotic mess the first season was and later ends with no conclusion. It just winds up being a plain mess instead of a fun, chaotic mess.

Carole Baskin’s missing ex-husband, Don Lewis, is given two whole episodes. He gets the previously mentioned serious ones that aired in the middle of the shortened five-episode season. These episodes feel like a completely different show, like something out of Dateline or Making a Murderer rather than something from the realm of Tiger King. Those episodes take random people from Costa Rica, who are never shown to be credible, and makes them the backbone of the show’s argument for what happened to Lewis. It shows how hard the documentarians were grasping at straws when figuring out how to make this a season worth of content rather than a one-shot special.

It doesn’t help the show’s case that Baskin isn’t involved with this season at all, leaving all of her segments to be previously shot and used footage, YouTube videos, appearances in cable and local TV interviews or segments and, of course, her short stint on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars

It’s embarrassing and lacks any and all ethics when a show spends 80 minutes (give or take) bashing someone and then never gives them a chance to respond to the claims. This is made worse when it appears as if the producers gave her a chance to respond, inserting old footage in there, but it never discloses that it’s old footage being used. It’s gross, no matter your opinion on Baskin or her antics.

It’s behavior like this that will likely result in Netflix being sued for Tiger King 2’s release, especially after Baskin previously filed to delay the season’s release because of the use of her likeness without her consent. That lawsuit failed, but with how litigious she’s been and continues to be, I can’t see her backing down from Netflix just yet.

The last two episodes of the season manage to somewhat recapture the chaos from the original, but it’s too little, too late. Exotic is featured slightly more in these episodes but never as anything more than a sprinkling of salt on the Banquet frozen dinner this season, as a whole, is. 

I was never engaged while watching this season and never interested in its minimal amount of meaningful content. I was only filled with anger and disappointment. Anything you could possibly learn from this show could be learned just from following the news surrounding these people for the last year and a half, or just Googling them could suffice.

I know people are going to watch this, especially because the first season was so massively popular, but I can’t recommend Tiger King 2 to anyone, not even fans of the original. It’s boring, it doesn’t know what it wants to be nor who it wants to be about, it lacks any sense of ethics (which is fitting considering its subjects) and it just doesn’t have the same energy or chaos that made the original such a success. This season should’ve been left in one of Exotic’s, thankfully now empty, tiger cages. 

@zachj7800

zj716018@ohio.edu

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