By Matt Pascarella
The following review does contain spoilers about Tiger King
Zookeeper. Internet TV star. Recording artist. Entrepreneur. Presidential candidate. Oklahoma candidate for governor. Eccentric personality. If you’ve been anywhere on the Internet over the last two weeks, you probably heard about Joe Exotic; the Tiger King.
The first episode of Netflix’s seven episode limited series is crazy from the start. There’s a lot going on. It opens with the quote “Not every day a zookeeper went to prison for murder-for-hire.” “Tiger King” is about the life of Joe Schreibvogel, who later became Joe Exotic and his contentious relationship with Carole Baskin, owner of Big Cat Rescue who wants to close down Exotic’s G.W. Zoo.
Filmmaker Eric Goode begins filming in Homestead, Florida where people are running zoos with exotic animals. Joe Exotic runs the G.W. Zoo, where he has over 100 exotic animals.
We meet Carole Baskin who runs Big Cat Rescue Sanctuary and believes Exotic is exploiting tigers and other big cats and wants to shut him down. Exotic has made a lot of money with big cats, bringing them to malls and using them in his zoo. The first episode ends with a threat from Exotic against Baskin.
The following episodes recount various things that happen around the time period this documentary series was being filmed. Some are horrific, like a suicide or an employee of Exotic’s losing an arm; you also meet many of the other individuals involved and most of them are somewhat bizarre characters.
You learn about Joe’s business and some of his suspect practices, all told through the individuals who worked for Joe. You learn a bit about Carole Baskin, who had a husband disappear and is now presumed dead. Throughout these episodes, Joe and Carole’s feud gets nastier and nastier. Joe has some financial trouble and ends up signing over his zoo to Jeff Lowe. From there, it just gets worse.
There are several twists and turns and events or revelations I wasn’t expecting. “Even if it’s a train wreck, you can’t help but look,” this is said late in the series and perfectly describes the Joe Exotic saga – you see it going downhill and you want to see what happens.
What is the outcome for Joe Exotic?
What happens to Carole?
Is there more I’m not telling you?
I was not really sure why there was a documentary about this guy and wasn’t impressed, initially. However, I could not look away. This is a very captivating series. It is hard to watch at points, but at the end of each episode, I needed to know what was going to happen to this guy; what was he going to do next? Parts of it are very in-depth and the whole series, in my opinion, probably could have been a 90 minute movie – if it was solely about Joe’s murder-for-hire case. There are a lot of strong personalities in this series, which is part of why I found it so interesting. Some of them you could swear are right out of a crazy movie, instead of real life. Heads up to the viewer: there are a few hard to watch parts and some animals being mistreated. Recommended.