Tiger King dropped on Netflix on March 20, and became an instant sensation. The memes, the Facebook groups, all of it made one thing clear: this needed to be watched. And boy did I. It's incredibly easy to binge-watch this entire 7 episode series in a day. Each episode is roughly 40 minutes long, making this a fairly easy thing to watch in one sitting. Each episode is more bat**** crazy than the last, and this is a show you should watch more than once.
This show centers around several big cat collectors and conservationists (if you can call them that) across America. We open with Joe Maldonado-Passage, aka "Joe Exotic." How does one even describe the human being that is Joe Exotic? Don't worry, Joe sums himself up well in his own presidential campaign. Yes, you read that right:
Joe is the main focus of this docuseries, but he isn't the only character here. On the opposite side of the aisle we have Carole Baskin, Joe's arch nemesis and life long enemy. Sounds dramatic? Believe me I'm not being dramatic enough. Joe spends a majority of this docuseries talking about wanting to kill Carole, how much he hates her, how she's ruining his life, and then some. Carole, owner and operator of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa. If you've ever flown through Tampa, you've likely seen advertisements in the airport for this rescue.
Carole herself doesn't seem like the worst person in the world. Her and Joe are forever at odds. Carole has taken Joe to court several times for a variety of things. During this series, it all came to a head when it was revealed that Joe had planned to hire a hitman to kill Carole. And yet that's not even the craziest thing that happens in this series. If anything, it all makes sense in this sensationalized and dramatic world.
On the topic of Carole, this docuseries leads viewers to believe that she may have murdered her second husband, and fed him to their tigers. Yes, I'm serious. Joe even has an entire song and music video depicting an actress feeding meat to a tiger, like Carole might have fed her cats. Do I think she did it? Who knows anymore.
Joe and Carole aren't the only characters in this show. Bhagavan "Doc" Antle is a caricature of every LARP guy you know who goes to every local convention and renaissance fair. He operates a zoo where people can interract with various animals, especially big cats. To his credit, he's had his animals involved in several high profile movies and appearances. He may also operate a sex cult. That's not even the weirdest thing about this docuseries.
There's a lot of weird people in this show. But not everyone is a radical piece of shit.
Wide-eyed 19-year-old Travis Maldonado joined Joe's weird world in 2013. Lured in with what we can assume to be endless drugs, partying, and whatever else Travis wanted, Travis married Joe (and Joe's other partner, John Finlay). From footage shown in this docuseries, it's clear Joe was manipulating both Travis and John.
While John did escape to get his life together, Travis likely felt trapped. In 2017 Travis shot himself in the head. We don't see it happen on camera, but we see something has happened off camera. Perhaps it was an accident, but perhaps Travis felt trapped and didn't know any other way out.
There is also one decent person on this show. Saff Saffery was a zookeeper working for Joe when his arm was torn off during a feeding. Saff shows an incredible depth and level headedness through this series, and he in no way puts blame on the zoo.
There is so much to Tiger King. So much that I can't put it into one article. If you're on the fence about this, watch it. If you're on the fence because of the animal abuse that is very much so spoken about, don't watch it. This is a ride, and you'll be left spinning when it's over.