Here’s the easiest way to explain the madness that is going on here. If Tiger King was a documentary about a wild, unhinged redneck animal park owner from Oklahoma, USA, Tiger King 2 is a documentary about a documentary about a wild, unhinged redneck animal park owner from Oklahoma. In these five new episodes, Joe Exotic is no longer the story – his appearances in this sequel to 2020’s global phenomenon (64 million viewers in four weeks!) largely takes the form of video calls from federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas. Now the story is the phenomenon itself.
There was never not going to be a sequel to Tiger King, the documentary that arrived when the world was shutting down and holing up indoors with banana bread and disinfectant wipes. Too much demand. Too much potential reward. Even so, producers Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, the documentary team who stumbled upon the story in the first place (with credit to podcast maker Robert Moor, whose Wondery series contained more nuance and narrative skill than what we saw on our screens) must have had to pinch themselves when they saw the events that transpired after season one wrapped up.
This isn’t a series running on fumes. Tiger King 2 is, somehow, more insane than anything you saw at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park the first time round. For this we have a new cast of characters to thank, who are either introduced afresh or fleshed out further in these five new episodes. There’s Troy Griffin, “Christian, clairvoyant, empathic psychic medium and psychic detective”, called in to provide answers for the desperate family of the missing Don Lewis, who weeps by a swamp before babbling on endlessly about visions of chickens. There’s a human-ogre-hybrid scraped from the bottom of John Waters’ dustbin, who runs an “adult playground” called The Sausage Castle (we do hope you kept hold of some of that disinfectant). And there’s fellow exotic animal park owner Tim Stark, whose entire purpose for being appears to be to make Joe himself appear relatively serene.
The Don Lewis case gets stranger and stranger (and murkier), as does Jeff Lowe and wife Lauren’s relationship to the very concept of truth. Then there’s Frank Allen Glover, the alleged ‘hitman’ hired by Joe to exterminate the duplicitous yet unfairly villainised Carole Baskin, with an episode five revelation that makes Tiger King 3 a certainty. And, like the first time round, Harold Baskin (despite he and wife Carole having no direct involvement with the series) is a treasure and must be protected at all costs. There’s more backstory on Joe – a little more insight into how the mulleted sausage was made – while throughout, there is of course, the constant mistreatment of exotic animals. These are the real victims of the piece, for all of the incarcerated Joe’s appeals. The series, thankfully, makes that clear.
All of which makes for extremely ugly television. You won’t watch the series and feel good about America, about our species, or maybe even yourself. But you will be, once again, enthralled.
‘Tiger King 2’ is streaming now on Netflix