Netflix’s docuseries, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is still one of pop culture’s biggest talking points, as fans want more stories about the eclectic cast who worked at the G.W. Zoo with the now-imprisoned Joe Exotic. It’s one of the most divisive series ever with many branding Joe a hero for trying to take on Carole Baskin, who runs Florida’s Big Cat Rescue.
However, with Netflix’s reunion episode, The Tiger King and I, one of the show’s biggest problems has been fixed as many of the likable characters from the seven episodes return and get to voice their truths. And they all agree no matter what, Joe is the villain of the story.
As one can tell from countless memes, videos and the media’s reaction, the public has become infatuated with Joe. His eccentricity and flair as a gay, gun-toting, wannabe politician really felt like a character someone created in their wildest dreams. His life involved polygamy, feeding his ego and running G.W. Zoo where he housed big cats and made money off exhibitions.
But the familiar faces from the series return to tell host Joel McHale that while Joe was more or less shaped as the protagonist of the series, people have to understand him trying to hire someone to kill Carole warrants his federal prison sentence. And to top it off, his killing of tigers which violated endangered species act is proof he was no better than whoever he accused of being a tyrant. Erik Cowie, the Head Zookeeper who’s back and running the zoo (now under Jeff Lowe) makes it clear they all held loyalties towards the cats and not Joe. The series teased Joe abusing the staff but Cowie wades in on how they were belittled a lot more than what cameras showed. In fact, the animals had it better than him, but he didn’t mind as he found the creatures to be endearing kids.
To him, Joe was a tyrant, constantly saying crass things, and now he’s content working for Jeff, accepting that Joe might die in jail. In fact, when asked if Joe should be freed, Cowie wished him good riddance so he can’t capitalize on the notoriety he’s recently gained. But the breaking point for Cowie came with Joe killing animals on the park to make room for new ones or to cut operational costs.
This is something his ex-producer Rick Kirkham confirmed, going on to reveal that Joe killed a lady’s horse and fed it to the tigers after saying he’d take care of it for her. Even John Reinke, the former manager for Joe’s zoo, confesses while the show painted him as Team Joe, he felt justice was served too. He’s so scared after his ordeal with Joe, he no longer trusts humans. He misses his animals and has moved on with a new girlfriend, but he simply can’t stand by someone whose insignia is condescension, creating drama and then firing people for the camera. This compounds how much Joe was an abusive boss who didn’t care about his staff or truly preserving the animals.
After all, it’s why he kept cutting videos that threatened Carole, trying to stay relevant and gain traction. Joe didn’t care what was the cost and as his former campaign manager, Joshua Dial, and the many other ex-workers said, that pride is what led to his downfall. Dial also confirms he didn’t get money for therapy after seeing one of Joe’s husbands, Travis, shoot himself in the head, so again, one can see that the environment Joe created wasn’t a healthy one.
Ultimately, Saff sums it up pretty well. While Joe did good things such as feeding the poor, he has a very opportunistic dark side to him. Saff never even got compensated for Joe using the safety video of the tiger mauling his arm off, and he simply accepted that’s the way the Tiger King is. And as reserved as he is, Saff also thinks Joe belongs in jail, so much so that he trusts the cat that attacked him more than Joe. But as Kirkham put it, Joe’s a coward and whether you’re a fan or not, incarceration is indeed his karma. And as all his former colleagues air their piece, they don’t want people focusing on Joe, but on the true victims: the animals.
All episodes of Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness are currently streaming on Netflix.
Netflix's Tiger King and I reunion episode fixed a major problem the docuseries had about revealing the truth about Joe Exotic's escapades.