20th Apr2020

‘Tiger King’ Review (Netflix Original)

by Rhys Payne

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Tiger King on Netflix is like a once in a lifetime experience and, I know I say this a lot, it’s a show not to miss! After all the hype and discussion it caused on social media I decided to give it a watch and It lived up to everything and more!

This Netflix exclusive documentary series follows the life of the eccentric Joe Exotic and the daily management of his zoo; and also explores his war with long time mortal enemy Carol Baskin. It’s fair to say that Joe lives a crazy life looking after tigers (among other animals), being a part of a married throuple and the other random things he gets involved with – which means when you first watch you show you are flabbergasted at how outlandish he is and you will think you will never be able to immerse yourself into the world he lives in due to how unique he is, but by about episode three I personally felt like I was in that zoo with Joe and could feel what he felt… which is a sign of a fantastic show.

If you have read any of my reviews before you will know I am not a fan of shows that are longer than about 45 minutes long, as it can at times be boring and it’s hard to put aside the time for such shows. So I was a bit intimidated when I saw the length of these episodes; but the show is filmed in such a way that it keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout and every minute is a weird combination of tension and excitement.

Tiger King will hook you with its wild stories and narrative and you won’t want to – or be able to – look away for a single minute.  You never know what’s going to happen next but you know it will be interesting, as there is constant tension in every episode (which may be due to the killer tigers in the background but who knows really). The most incredible thing about this show however is that it is all real. Joe Exotic is a real person who raised tigers, ran for president and was a part of a married throuple and the realistic but outlandish nature of it works excellently. This isn’t is a Hollywood blockbuster where everything is scripted, complete with special effects but instead it’s a real-world drama which in my opinion is much better. The producers of this show beautifully blended together home filmed and professionally filmed clips to really hammer home the idea that what is going on IS based on real-life which was an incredible inclusion!

This is absolutely a series for an older, more mature, audience due to many factors. Firstly there is an underlying theme of animal cruelty that is the foundation of much of the show. I believe that a younger audience would not be able to comprehend the nuances and structures developed in the debate, as even I struggled to comprehend both sides of the arguments as they progress. Next there is strong language throughout (mostly by Joe himself I have to add) and also depicts of violence and use of guns. One scene, in particular, that was extremely difficult to watch involved reference to and depiction of suicide. I think a younger viewer may find this show incredible difficult to watch as there are numerous unsettling scenes.

Despite his wackiness and at times his moral ambiguity you can’t help but feel sorry for Joe. He is a likeable person who you grow to love throughout the series and, in a sense, you get to explore how his mind works. This is why a second season is so important as there was so much left out of the series that the audience want to know, in order to truly understand who Joe is as a person.

I think by the end of the series it did lose some of what the essence of what Tiger King was though and this was started by a scene involving a jet ski with the song eye of the tiger playing in the background. While I understand this was a bit of light relief from the tense and dark show, I did think this appeared from almost out of nowhere and didn’t really fit at all. I was actually very disappointed by the final ‘reunion’ episode hosted by Joel McHale. As a comedian, Joel is, by nature, going to try and be funny (which he was) but again this really didn’t fit with the rest of the show. Yes, of course, I wanted more but I don’t think this extra episode was exactly what many people were clamouring for. However, it was nice to see what the people involved in the show thought of the series and how they were portrayed, which is something we don’t normally get to see so this was a welcomed treat!

Overall, Tiger King is a dark and twisted show that will pull you into the wild world of Joe Exotic. It’s a tense and gripping programme that will keep you on the edge of your seat through the whole series which is a sign of an incredible show. I can’t wait for another series and have heard rumours for a Tiger King movie and musical in the works, so keep an eye out for that!

Despite the lacklustre final episode, Tiger King was just that damn good that it deserves a perfect rating!

***** 5/5

Tiger King is available to watch on Netflix now.

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