Kdrama Review: Hierarchy” (2024)

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Hierarchy (2024) Review: A Glittering Disappointment in K-Drama

Hey there moms! Weekends coming up. What are you watching? Okay, so, I was hesitant to watch this Kdrama early on. Mainly because I’m turned off by the makeup of the cast that looks like they’re mannequins on display. My goodness, they all look like dolls. But I’m a sucker for a revenge plot so here I am.

Netflix’s newest K-drama, “Hierarchy,” promised a delectable blend of revenge, romance, and high school drama, all served against the backdrop of Korea’s elite society. It boasted a high-budget production with a cast of promising young actors, and a lot of Kdrama followers are eagerly waiting with anticipation for a thrilling exploration of wealth, power, and the yearning for justice. You know, the works. Did it deliver? It;s ho mumm, I skipped most parts, and failed to engage my imagination. The series ultimately failed to live up to its potential, and I was so annoyed with the ending. Like, whatttt?!

Plot and Execution

“Hierarchy” centers around Jooshin High School, a gilded cage where the children of Korea’s elite rule with an iron fist. Descendants of chaebol families, these students are groomed from birth to inherit vast empires, and their education at Jooshin is a carefully curated stepping stone on their path to dominance. Familiar yet?

Enter Kang Ha (Lee Chae-min), a scholarship student whose very presence disrupts the established order. Haunted by the mysterious death of his brother, Kang Ha arrives at Jooshin with a burning desire for truth and justice (or not -he seems to be more interested in romance). His entrance disrupts the school’s rigid social hierarchy, where wealth dictates social standing and privilege shields students from the consequences of their actions.

Initially, the plot tantalizes viewers with the promise of a captivating exploration of rebellion, revenge, and the struggle to overcome a rigged system. Kang Ha’s arrival at Jooshin High, a microcosm of Korea’s elite society, hints at a potential breakdown of the established social order. We anticipate a critical examination of class disparity, a staple in successful K-dramas. However, “Hierarchy” quickly squanders this potential. The narrative devolves into predictable tropes, failing to capitalize on its intriguing premise. The social commentary on class inequality feels surface-level and underdeveloped. Instead of a critique of privilege, the show ends up glorifying the elite students and their actions. This mixed messaging leaves viewers with a sense of disappointment. The social commentary feels insincere, sending contradictory messages about the consequences (or lack thereof) of the elite’s behavior.

Plus why did it feel like his brother’s story is only a plot device for Kang ha? We didn’t really feel like he wanted to get revenge for him. There were a few flashbacks but apart from that, we didn’t really feel that story pushing the plot. It did not delve deeply into the motivations and struggles of its characters. 

Even the pacing is uneven. The execution feels messy and overdone at times, detracting from the overall viewing experience. This kdrama is directed by Bae Hyun-jin and written by Chu Hye-mi. Bae Hyun-jin is known for his work on popular series such as “Alchemy of Souls” Season 2 and “Big Mouth” (2022). Chu Hye-mi, the scriptwriter, is recognized for her work on “About Time” 

Acting and Characters

The cast includes Roh Jeong-eui as the school’s queen bee, Jung Jae-i, and Kim Jae-won as the chaebol heir, Kim Ri-an. While Lee Chae-min’s performance as Kang Ha shows glimpses of potential, the character’s development is stunted by a lackluster script. Known for his role in “Crash Course in Romance,” Lee Chae-min brings a familiar face to “Hierarchy.” But despite his best efforts, the script does not allow him to fully showcase his acting chops. It’s like they can’t decide what to do with his character and stayed in the middle road of revenge.

Roh Jeong-eui‘s portrayal of Jung Jae-i is similarly underwhelming, with her character often coming across as emotionless and unconvincing. I’m not sure if that’s what theyre really going for buit that nonchalant look is annoying. Previously seen in “18 Again,” Roh Jeong-eui’s performance in “Hierarchy” seems to be step back, with her character failing to resonate with the audience. Her entrance in episode 1 was so reminiscent of Gossip Girl and her story ending didn’t come as a surprise. Kim Jae-won as the Chaebol lead struggled too. We love him and we know that he has a lot of range but after his role in “King the Land,”we are left wanting more. Angd again that chiselled look they’re going for annoyed me no end. 🤷🏽‍♀️

The supporting cast, including Ji Hye Won and Lee Won Jung, manage to bring some life to their roles. In fact, they’re even more fun to watch that the leads themselves but their efforts are overshadowed by the overall weak character development and direction. The series attempts to create complex characters with shades of grey but ends up with a cast of one-dimensional and unlikable figures. Gahhhh.

Those second-class scholars casting was seriously unhinged and deserved a call out too. Why are the rich kids so beautiful and the poor kids looking like they were plucked from the worst-looking kids from the cast? I’m sure they are presented that way and made up to look ugly as well. Like what are you trying to show here? Can you tell I’m tired?😩

To watch or not to watch?

“Hierarchy” is a classic case of style over substance. Despite its glossy exterior and high production values, the series fails to engage viewers with its predictable plot and lackluster character development. For those looking for a compelling high school drama with rich social commentary, “Hierarchy” is likely to disappoint. Instead, consider revisiting classics like “The Penthouse” or “SKY Castle,” which masterfully blend these elements with engaging storytelling. In fact, if you’re a fan of High School Drama, rewatching The Heirs might be even better use of your time. The twist in the story felt like a sell-out with the production refusing to take accountability for their story. We didn’t get our just desserts.

Note: This review incorporates feedback from various sources, including Reddit discussions and professional reviews, to provide a comprehensive and balanced perspective on “Hierarchy”.

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