#7 TRENDING IN Entertainment 🔥

Is the K-drama "Hierarchy" Worth Watching?


Tue, June 11

The show "Hierarchy" has been blowing up on social media as one of the most hyped-up K-dramas this summer, based on the trailer featuring its stunning characters, extravagant sets, and potential for an interesting plot.

The show stars Lee Chae-Min as protagonist Kang Ha, No Jeong-ee as the female lead Jeong Jae-i, Kim Jae-Won playing the antagonist Kim Ri-an, Ji Hye-Won as the female lead's best friend Yoon He-Ra and Lee Won-Jung as the antagonist's best friend, Lee Woo-Jin. The show depicts drama in a way that might remind you of your beloved shows, such as the Netflix Spanish series "Elite" and the iconic CW's "Gossip Girl." In the first episode alone, a former "it" couple takes off in sports cars around the track. You would think that characters in the show break up normally, but that wouldn't fit the standards in "Hierarchy." They challenge their long-time lover to an intense, high-stakes race.

Many excited viewers have been looking forward to this drama since the trailer came out. Will it live up to the legacies of fellow K-dramas, Revenge of Others (2022) and The Glory (2022), or will it be a flop? Let's find out!

Warning!!! There will be spoilers! Proceed with caution!

What is "Hierarchy" about?

Kim Ri-an and Jeong Jae-i are two of the wealthiest students in Jooshin Academy, a fictional elite high school housing Korea's 1% and a few promising yet low-income scholarship kids. Kang Ha is part of the latter group when we're introduced to him in the first episode as an oblivious transfer student who sticks out like a sore thumb when he doesn't pay attention to the not-so-subtle hierarchy taking place at the Academy. Kim Ri-an's great-grandfather founded the school, and his parents own it, making him the king of the school and Jae-i the school's queen bee.

He's surrounded by his posse of students who follow his every word with his friends Woo-jin, who comes from a family of politicians, and He-ra, one of the most popular girls at school and heir to the trading company International Yoon, where they run the place and make anyone who doesn't follow their word as law miserable. Despite students warning him through violence or words, it's revealed that Kang Ha isn't as naive as he appears when, in actuality, he's here on a mission. Kang Ha is seeking revenge for his fraternal twin Kang In-han, who was also a scholarship student before he was killed in a hit-and-run. After befriending Jae-i, he discloses to her that he's here to find his brother's killer and hold anyone who was complicit accountable.

In this show's true fashion, it's unsurprising that In-han's death isn't the only matter shrouded in secrecy around this school. Like Gossip Girl, we see dysfunctional parental relationships where the children are seen as extensions of their parents used as their tools for business transactions as they see fit. Corruption, blackmail, s*x, lies, student-teacher relationships, and scandals have been taking place at this institution long before Kang got there.

As Dan Humphry would say, "Adults acting like teenagers, guarding secrets, spreading gossip, all with the trappings of truly opulent wealth. And membership in this community was so elite you couldn't even buy your way in. It was a birth right."

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Who killed Kang In-han?

Since the first moments of Hierarchy, we know In-han was killed in a car accident. The season finale revealed that the person behind the wheel was Ji-su, one of the teachers at Jooshin Academy, who was sleeping with Woo-jin. After being chased down by bullies, a bruised In-han stumbles upon the two, making out in a hallway.

Ji-su catches on and chases him down on foot, then using Woo-jin's family car. She's desperate to talk to In-han, but he keeps running away. Ever since starting at Jooshin Academy, he's been bullied, beaten, harassed, and verbally abused for daring to befriend Jae-i when he's just a "lowly scholarship student." Now, an adult figure meant to protect all their students was caught making out with one of them and chasing him down. He tries calling Kang Ha, but after the call connects, Ji-su hits In-han when he ends up on the street in front of her speeding car. Instead of calling the cops or an ambulance, she spots and grabs the camera pen, the phone, and any evidence of her affair with Woo-jin, then leaves her student to die.

Does Kang Ha achieve his end goal?

Honestly, that's depending on which viewer you're asking. He handed the evidence over to the police, meaning Ji-su and the students who beat In-han up were arrested. Technically, he held most of the people accountable for who caused his brother's death.

The principal, Park Hui-Seon, is fired by Ri-an's mother for failing to "protect" her son's and the school's image. However, it feels like the theme of the show undercuts itself when Kang Ha holds Ri-an to a higher standard of responsibility for his brother's death but doesn't do the same thing for Jae-i, who has the nerve to ask Kang Ha to help protect Ri-an from the blowback he might get because of the dirt that's about to come out from Jae-i's blackmailer which is revealed to be Nam Ju-Won, the now former principal's son. Instead of taking proper revenge, as we see in another K-drama, Kang Ha just falls in love with her, and the other main characters don't really get any harsh punishments except a slap on the wrist and their image a little tainted. The show ends with a new principal taking Park's place, and Jae-i is sent away to New York and basically disowned. In the final moments of the episodes, we see that she visits her mother, who her father also exiled.

Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Is the show worth it?

If I'm being honest, I don't think the show lived up to its potential, and many viewers agree with that sentiment. One user said, "Rich kids bullying Scholarship kids, Class Society, Murder, Sibling coming to take Revenge. Expected intensity, but it's much lighter than others.

Though it has one of the worst ending in kdrama history, as I don't know who's the male lead here." Another user agreed, "The worst ending in kdrama history. I don't know who's the male lead here, this is the worst love triangle ever. SHE FELL IN LOVE WITH THEM AT THE SAME TIME! WTF!" It feels like it just teaches the message that systemic inequality is fine as long as they don't get caught for outwardly murdering or bullying someone.

I'm also not a huge fan of how rushed they made the characters' backstory. As the viewers, we never really understood their motivations, reasoning, or depth of their actions. We especially see this with the "friendship" between Ri-an, Jae-i, Woo-jin, and He-ra, where we're expected to see them as the "core 4." However, every scene we see of them is just them backstabbing each other and being crappy to each other and other people.

Then, they sprinkle some flashbacks as if the audience is supposed to connect with them as a group and see them as true friends. At least with Gossip Girl, we got to see NJBC (Non-judgemental Breakfast Club) be there no matter what. Even if Serena, Blair, Nate, and Chuck despised each other at that moment, we know they'll have each other's backs. We don't get that with these characters. It also felt like the writer lost the plot of the revenge part and focused more on romance. We see love triangles left and right but no satisfying revenge and the rich kids don't even learn their lesson. They wouldn't be held accountable if it wasn't for Jae-i being honest about their actions and holding them accountable for what they did. Afterward, we sort of see that the hierarchy is disassembled, but we still have the rich kids going back to school like normal, and nothing really changes that much. Seeing as this is a limited series, it's up in the air whether "Hierarchy" will get a second season, but if it does, hopefully, it will fix the mistakes it made in the first season. Leave your opinions in the comments down below!

Williana Serve
100k+ pageviews

Williana is currently a freshman in college. She likes to learn new things especially involving Law & Advocacy. When she’s not doing schoolwork, she can be found watching TikTok, YouTube, or reading.