Netflix is about to shove more Joe Exotic down our throats whether we like it or not.
“When you think you’ve seen it all, you haven’t quite seen it all,” the trailer for the second season of Netflix’s Tiger King dares. But that trite axiom proves hollow because if the first season of Tiger King taught us anything in the eight-or-so hours we all sat glued to docu-footage of big cat outlaws in Florida, it’s that we should never expect to have seen it all in the first place. But as the streaming titan has proven in recent months, quantity over quality is the game.
Every now and then, as we dutifully watch all of Netflix’s myriad content, we are rewarded with genuinely compelling programming — but we must wade through the distracting, exploitative and trashy missteps in between. And yet they do not care. Even as the internet has universally lamented the return of the big cat dramasphere, Netflix continues to dangle its imminent November 17 premier with an “if you build it, they will come” kind of attitude.
Netflix seems to be wagering that our quarantine attention spans can be recaptured just by reigniting the spark that was the early-pandemic phenomenon of the show. But what felt like unifying escapism from our apocalyptic reality in March of 2020, feels now like an awkward invitation to revisit a dark time. Tiger King isn’t only a marked reminder of the terror of pandemic past, it’s an unsettling confirmation of pandemic present — an eery bookending of our freshman and sophomore years of Covid chaos. And Netflix betting that we are still existentially stilted enough to wade back into the murky Everglade waters of Tiger King is almost an insult to our collective fortitude to have learned something from all of this.
What the new trailer does provide, though, is a bit of reasoning as to why Netflix seems so hell bent on shoving this second season down our reluctant throats. The trailer revisits our once beloved and now bemoaned Tiger King universe to find the cast completely changed by the fact that the first season aired to begin with. James Garretson is posing with barely clothed models in front of yachts, and Jeff Lowe is sporting a diamond tiger necklace as he boasts, “We have more money than God right now.” Meanwhile, titular con man Joe Exotic complains from a prison phone call, “Everybody from the zoo is out there making money and I’m paying the price for every one of them people.”
Netflix is essentially a silent character in season two of Tiger King. If they hadn’t released the Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin-produced and directed docuseries, it’s unlikely that anyone would have ever known who the now infamous Joe Exotic or Carole Baskin were, short of an intrepid reporter looking to break a salacious story of Americana gone wild. But Netflix did air Tiger King, and thus brought celebrity and wealth to a niche enclave of the panhandle — while also, ironically, exposing its moral failings. Netflix essentially rewarded these characters for their inherently problematic trade and downright murderous drama. From what the trailer for season two seems to suggest, this iteration of Tiger King will be an attempt to reckon with the reality that the streaming service created. Whether or not this season has a conscience, or is just another attempt at a controversy-laden subscriber grab, remains to be seen. But what is for certain is that to Netflix at least, this story and their role in it is far from over.