If you have not watched it already, the second season of Netflix’s Tiger King aired on November 17th, and the critical response for now is promising.

There were many questions about what the new season would look like, with its main character, Joe Exotic, being in prison and Carole Baskin refusing to appear for a second season. Indeed, Tiger King 2 differs from Season 1, but remains true to the style.

Netflix promotional image for Tiger King 2. Image courtesy of Netflix's Twitter.

At a glance Tiger King 2 portrays men, wild animals, a few crimes, guns and, of course, plenty of drama.

While the focus of Netflix’s Tiger King documentary shifted slightly away from the animals and more towards the personal drama and crimes of the characters, the main purpose of the project was originally to raise awareness of the illegal ownership and trade of endangered animals in the United States. Tigers and other wild animals, especially those that are endangered in the wild, are not suited to domestication.

The halting of biodiversity loss has even been determined as one of the main aims of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for Life on Land, as it is a critical step in securing a sustainable and safe future. Sadly, in Season 2, the audience is able to experience how these endangered animals are treated, held, and are more likely to die in a box or trailer than in their natural habitat.

While animal abuse is touched upon, Season 2 is still focused on the feud between ‘Tiger King’ Joe Exotic, who is still in prison, and his opponent Carole Baskin, picking up where they left off and delving into the most recent dramatic developments.

Even though Carole Baskin does not officially appear in the show, she still is one of the main characters in the most recent season. After the first season of Tiger King was released, Baskin explained that she had filmed with the Tiger King team for five years, believing that the documentary would expose the cub petting industry and big cat extinction.

“I found out about it the same time everybody else in the world did,” she explained in a recent interview. “When we saw the trailers coming out for something called Tiger King, we actually reached out to them and said, ‘Who’s working on that film, because you said Joe Exotic was going to be like five minutes of your film?’ And all of a sudden, they didn’t want to talk to us.”

Carole Baskin. Image courtesy of Netflix.

Another unwelcome element for Baskin was the reporting on her missing ex-husband Don Lewis, who disappeared in 1997. The show left the questions open regarding what happened to Don Lewis, but many viewers blamed Baskin for being responsible for Lewis’ death.

“So we sat down and binge-watched it, and we kept thinking that surely at some point, they would set the record straight, and they never did. They just left all of those false allegations hanging in the air, and we’ve all seen the results of that,” explains Baskin.

Season 2 now dedicates nearly two whole episodes to the mystery of Don Lewis’ disappearance. Reporting on his daughters’ desperate search for him, the interference of several TV lawyers, and dubious internet detectives. It even seems like the producers were able to find more witnesses about Don Lewis’  criminal businesses and trips to Costa Rica than the actual investigating detectives.

Despite Baskin’s ongoing lawsuits against Netflix and the show’s producers, the audience of Tiger King will still see her in the new season, which features uploaded videos from Baskin’s YouTube channel.

Still from Carole Baskin's diary reading. Image courtesy of Carole Baskin's YouTube.

While the story behind Carole Baskin and Don Lewis continues, the second focus lays on the story of the Great Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, now owned by Jeff Lowe and Tim Stark.

Regarding the bad publicity for these kinds of zoos in Season 1, a reasonable person would think GW Zoo wouldn’t have made any profit in 2020. However, this was not the case. Apart from the hype surrounding the character Joe Exotic himself, people from all over the country were visiting his zoo. It is bizarre that this development was caused by a documentary originally intended to criticize the cruelty taking place in these zoos, rather than boost their attendance.

A lion in GW Zoo from 2020. Image courtesy of Peta

The series also displays the original key witness of Joe Exotic’s process, admitting to plans to kill Joe Exotic and as well as a cooperation with Jeff Lowe for this purpose. Final scenes include Joe’s lawyer announcing that Joe will soon be released from prison, which leaves us to question the criminal justice system in the US.

Contrary to his lawyer’s statement, however, Joe Exotic is currently behind bars, facing another 21 of the sentenced 22 years and a diagnosis of aggressive prostate cancer. The last episode of Tiger King 2 finally shows the shut down of the GW Zoo, as well as another zoo owned by Tim Stark. They show shocking images of abused animals and Stark and Lowe in rage about the ongoing investigations, which illustrates the entire season of Tiger King 2 and all its madness in a cineastic manner.

Tiger of GW Zoo at the Wildlife sanctuary, source‌‌

The authorities ultimately secured 127 cats from the two zoos and re-homed them in a wildlife sanctuary in Colorado. At least the last frames of Tiger King 2 allow viewers to see these beautiful animals in an appropriate environment and closer to a happy life than they were before. According to Joe Exotic, now that he is behind bars, regrets his actions and is ashamed of how he kept these animals. It is just a shame that it took over a decade, a Netflix success and a jail sentence.

Find information about how to help wildlife here.

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