Seemingly every few months, Netflix drops another stranger-than-fiction, extremely bingeable true-crime docuseries, with each one crazier than the last. They've explored notorious serial killers like Ted Bundy, dipped into cults with Wild, Wild Country, and brought lesser-known cases, like that of Evil Genius and The Keepers, into the spotlight. But the streamer's March 2020 release, Tiger King: Mayhem, Murder, and Madness, from Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, might actually be the craziest one yet.
In the first few minutes, Goode narrates over footage he took of stumbling across a caged snow leopard in the back of a van in 100-degree heat, which sets him and Chaiklin on a five-year journey into the big cat world. Focusing on Oklahoma's one and only Joe Exotic, who, until very recently, was in charge of the self-proclaimed largest private zoo in the country, the series picks and pulls at the loose threads of Joe's strange underground world. Most people might recognize Joe from his strange, viral campaign for president during the 2016 election, but the series goes much deeper than that, diving into Joe's network of friends and their work-for-hire cults, his husbands and their darkness, and political foes, eventually leading to the attempt at orchestrating the murder of his rival, animal "sanctuary" owner Carole Baskin in Florida.
If you think that's all Tiger King has to offer, think again. Joe putting a hit out on a nemesis half the country away is hardly the most mind-boggling moment of the series. Like The Staircase, the mid-2000s true-crime series that Netflix bought the rights to and helped rework to include brand-new material, each of Tiger King's seven episodes gets increasingly more bizarre, turning what at first seems like a profile on a kooky big cat guy into deranged and depressing insight on many of the eccentrics who populate the shady world of exotic zoos in the United States. It's more insane than you even know.