Netflix is trying really hard to recapture the insanity of the original Tiger King show from early last year. The lacklustre second season from around a month ago has been followed up very quickly by an even smaller limited series, this time focusing on Doc Antle from the first season. It’s a story full of abuse of all forms. Doc Antle is presented in the documentary as a monster with no redeeming qualities, and it’ll leave you wondering why he’s not behind bars already.
Doc Antle and his cult-like zoo was one of the main areas the first season of Tiger King investigated, and what was shown was shocking and horrific for the people involved. This mini-series goes even further, with allegations on how he sought out potentially vulnerable underage teenager girls, and essentially brainwashed them with physical abuse and a limited diet. The damage he has caused to the people around him is horrible, especially to his ex-wives.
This is a lot darker than the other two seasons of Tiger King. Gone are the wild and larger than life characters, and the ridiculous singing. The bizarre and fun tone of the original series isn’t here and it’s not as entertaining without it. It does feel like it’s still trying to recapture the past though, there are cameos featuring Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin.
It’s important to note that Doc Antle has denied the allegations presented and has expressed regret to being involved with Tiger King. Apart from a few snippets at the beginning of this one showing Antle’s interviews since the airing of Tiger King, there really isn’t any defence of him. It’s accusation after accusation with no objectivity and it’s a lot to take in and that makes it a chore to sit through. It’s not an excuse for any of his behaviour, it just makes the same point over and over. If it’s this clear cut why isn’t he in prison?
The first two seasons of Tiger King gave a lot of time to present Joe Exotic from all angles. There are people who defended him throughout, and his past is told in detail so you get a real sense of who he is and how he ended up the way he did. They tried really hard to make him sympathetic. None of that is shown with Doc Antle, you don’t really get a good idea of who he is by the end of it, beyond being a mastermind abuser. It’s just sensationalism to sell subscriptions at this point.
The worst thing about this mini-series, is the third episode that goes into detail about one of Antle’s apprentices, Mark Topping, who died after falling from a cliff in 1989. There’s a lot of claims that Antle was involved in Topping’s death, but absolutely no evidence is presented. It’s just a string of people saying that it always seemed odd to them, but it’s not even clear if Antle was on the hiking trail with Mark when he died. The way it’s presented in the documentary is completely baseless, and that makes it pointless. The way it spends an entire episode on a tragic event, is at best a tribute to Topping who seems like a nice guy, and at worse exploiting his death to make another Tiger King episode.
At this point it feels like Netflix should let Tiger King disappear. It was lightning in a bottle at the start of lockdown that seemed to match the strange and bizarre times we were living in. Neither the second season nor this spin-off mini-series matches the original and that’ll hopefully be the end of it.
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