In Laurentine: Tiger King review

By Lauren Reichenbach, Copy Editor

This is part two of a nine-part entertainment review series by The Easterner. Lauren Reichenbach, author of this article, is the copy editor for The Easterner. Her opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Easterner, its staff or Eastern Washington University.

Scoring a surprising 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, the Netflix original docuseries, Tiger King, is the second worst pandemic 2020 has seen so far.

There are only seven regular episodes to this wild docuseries. An unusual eighth episode was released on April 12, with interviews of a few of the park employees hosted by actor Joel McHale.

Tiger King follows the life of big-cat owner Joe Exotic. What starts out as a seemingly normal big-cat rescue zoo turns into more drama and twists and turns than one can keep track of. 

Throughout the first few episodes, Exotic is constantly battling neck-and-neck with both PETA and his arch nemesis, Carole Baskin. Baskin, who runs the exact same kind of big-cat rescue, has poured millions of dollars into trying to get Exotic’s zoo shut down on accusations of animal cruelty. 

Baskin goes about her hatred for Exotic in a much more mature way than Exotic does for Baskin. Exotic, who used to run his own nightly web show, repeatedly filmed himself threatening to shoot Baskin in the face, fill her yard and mailbox with poisonous snakes, drop live grenades on her big-cat rescue and overall threatened her life and her property in almost every way imaginable.

“I consider that bitch to be one of the biggest terrorists in the exotic animal world right now,” said Exotic on Tiger King.

While there are many new developments and characters that enter into the docuseries in seven episodes, the overall focus is the insane feud between Exotic and Baskin.

Obtained from Wikimedia Commons
Joe Exotic’s mugshot.

In the fourth episode, one of Exotic’s buildings on the property mysteriously catches on fire, burning hundreds of hours of Tiger King footage as well as killing many defenseless alligators. Exotic immediately points a finger at Baskin, while Baskin insists Exotic must have set the fire himself in order to make him look like the victim. 

One of the most frustrating things about Tiger King is that nothing is ever settled. Possibly the biggest conspiracy in the whole docuseries is the belief that Baskin killed her ex-husband, Don Lewis. While Baskin repeatedly denies any involvement in his odd disappearance, all evidence points straight to her. Most viewers believe Lewis became tiger food the second he decided to leave Baskin. 

Baskin ends up filing multiple lawsuits against Exotic and his family for countless things. Exotic eventually goes bankrupt trying to fight the endless lawsuits, and another big-cat owner, Jeff Lowe, comes in to “save the day,” as Exotic sees it.

Exotic ends up laundering thousands of dollars of Lowe’s money trying to close lawsuits and keep the zoo alive. When Lowe finds out, Exotic is kicked off the property and sent death threats should he ever return.

Livid that Baskin has now taken everything from him, Exotic supposedly hires someone to murder her. With every character in the series pinned against each other at this point, however, Exotic is quickly turned over to the police and arrested for murder-for-hire.

Now serving 22 years in prison for 19 counts of animal cruelty and one count of murder-for-hire, Exotic is more famous than he ever thought he would become.

In episode eight, many past and current employees of Exotic’s zoo speak about things the documentary got right, things it got wrong and whether they believe Exotic should be freed from prison.

“No,” said Erik Cowie, head zookeeper. “Not no, but fuck no. Twenty-two years doing federal time, let’s see, what’s that guy, he’s like 56 or something like that? Yeah he’s gonna die in there. Good riddance!”

When asked how he responds to people who think Exotic was set up, Lowe took no pity on the guy.

“Joe was his own worst enemy,” said Lowe. “He should have gotten up on the stand and testified against himself.” 

While Exotic’s co-workers didn’t have much good to say about him, they weren’t much in favor of Baskin, either. Many are convinced she fed her husband to her tigers.

Obtained from Wikimedia Commons
A photo of Carole Baskin from September 2019.

“Abso-fucking-lutely,” said Lauren Lowe, Jeff Lowe’s wife.

“Yeah,” said Jeff Lowe. “There’s no question in my mind that she did it. And we’ve claimed that for years and years and years.”

Each episode is between 40-50 minutes long, and is packed with action, back-stabbing and confusion. Most viewers share a love-hate relationship with this docuseries, not knowing whether to laugh or cringe at the antics that go on throughout the show.

So what do you think? Have you watched all eight episodes of Tiger King? Do you think Carole Baskin fed her husband to the tigers? Do you think Joe Exotic was set up? Do you think he should be in prison? Do you think other big-cat people should go down with him?

Cast your votes on The Easterner’s Instagram story!