Hierarchy Netflix Series Review: The Korean Version Elite


The review of Hierarchy, a Korean teen drama TV series available on Netflix, halfway between Gossip Girl and Elite.

Netflix presented Hierarchy this Friday, a new Korean production that revisits the teenage thriller genre, the classic mix of intrigue, social classes, and murders. The genre has hit the mark on the platform since 2018, with the huge success of the Spanish TV series Elite; since then, and almost without variations, this formula has been repeated with fury and it is Korea that offers us the latest variation. As we will see in this Hierarchy review, Korean series confirm their success on Netflix, above all for one reason: they give the public what it wants and expects. They don't hide, they don't disappoint, focusing on a refined production and talented and attractive actors.

Hierarchy, welcome to Jooshin High

In a luxurious, very expensive, and exclusive Korean high school, class issues work like clockwork: the heirs of the great families, who have studied there for generations, dominate the lower class, which abides by the dictates of the rich heirs, knowing that, in a way or in the other, one day they will work for them. At this point, a new boy, a scholarship holder, arrives at the institute, ready to clarify the circumstances that led to the death of a friend of his, also at the institute and for some time. Everything seems to be linked to a group of boys and above all to a mysterious girl named Jung Jae-i, daughter of one of the most famous businessmen in the country.

The school in question is Jooshin High, an elite private institution with decades of prestigious history. From fencing to ballet, from the harp to Lord Byron's Sardanapalus, an endless array of extracurricular activities is available to privileged students, but only to those who can afford them. Jooshin High extols noblesse oblige as a school creed, which means it welcomes a select number of scholarship students. This year, the exclusive spot goes to KANG HA (Lee Chae-min), but it soon becomes apparent that the fellows are being belittled because they are on a lower social rung. Not only are their ties a different color, which sets them apart but they are also denied access to certain services.

At the top of this hierarchy sits a quartet of the most popular – and powerful – people in the school. Only one shows a sign of contempt towards the status quo: this is the aloof JUNG JAE-YI (Noh Jung-Eui), the eldest daughter of the Jaeyul group. Not only does he put distance between himself and his elite colleagues, but he also breaks up with childhood friend KIM RI-AHN (Kim Jae-won) – moreover through an adrenaline-filled racing bet – after three months which he ignored while he was abroad.

The others are content to sit comfortably on their throne, but each of them has their own demons. Jooshin's heir, Ri-ahn, has everything he could want, except his mother's love. YOON HE-RA (Ji Hye-won) craves attention, especially from Ri-ahn; now that his relationship with Jae-yi has soured, she falls on him to seduce him. As for flower boy LEE WOO-JIN (Lee Won-jung), she secretly dates – and sleeps with – their school teacher HAN JI-SOO (Chae Seo-ahn). It's not long before Jae-yi's facade begins to crack as well. Criticized in every way by her overbearing father JUNG KI-YOUNG (Choi Won-young), Jae-yi struggles to be the black sheep compared to her golden son who is her half-brother.

A confusing plot and mediocre storytelling

Hierarchy does what it promises: it offers audiences a high-end production, with an entire setting of mansions, sports cars, parties, and extravagant clothes. Sets, scenography, photography... everything is organized to create an atmosphere of luxury and whimsical, banal refinement. Exactly what we expect, even at the screenplay level, with a thriller story that mixes romance, revenge, and the stories of kids who feel defenseless by their powerful parents.

Everything in Hierarchy reminds us of Elite: like the successful Spanish production that conquered the platform, the Korean TV series offers a mix of mystery, relationships, drugs, and crime in a prestigious school, where the arrival of new students exacerbates the clashes between the different social classes. The Netflix show attempts to blend mystery and romance in a teen-drama context, but the result, compared to the very first seasons of Elite, is disappointing. The idea of ​​upsetting the existing order is already a cliché, and the use of familiar story arcs and romantic angles makes the plot development so predictable that one can easily anticipate the main events of the series: at least, the first season of Elite had reserved some plot twists and reflections on not so obvious topics.

Hierarchy struggles to find its own stylistic signature

This drama is a labyrinth of secrets, with each student harboring a hidden agenda. Some are fueled by a burning desire for revenge, while others mask their true identities to navigate the depths of class disparity. A complex game of motivations that keeps viewers in suspense, intertwining rivalries, and juicy gossip. In this kaleidoscope of intrigue and emotion typical of teenage drama, Hierarchy tries to stand out with mystery and violence but ends up losing itself, with a plot that goes around in circles without ever finding a clear direction.

Hierarchy is another high school drama where students do everything but study. The characters are predictable: the strict guardian, the reserved protagonist, the rich bully, and other stereotypes already present in many similar shows. While the romantic dynamics are captivating and the chemistry between Roh Jeong-Eui and his co-stars is palpable, the interactions between the characters fail to lift an already-seen plot. While trying to carve out its own identity with an intricate narrative and good performances, the series ends up tackling already widely explored themes such as betrayal, revenge, and love, without adding anything new.


The attempt to explore the social divide between students in an environment like Korea is appreciable, but it's not enough to make the plot more profound or original.
Overall Score