Hierarchy Review: One Thing That Disappointed Fans + Is The Death Of Another Student A Sign For Season 2?

Hierarchy Review
hierarchy season 2
Credit: Netflix

Although dramas like Lovely Runner and Queen of Tears have been all the rage for lovers of romance, those seeking thrills and endless drama have been totally absorbed in Netflix’s latest K-Drama hit Hierarchy. Before reading further be careful of our spoilers!

Now, with the release of the finale, fans have been both satisfied and disappointingly stunned by how things unfolded and various questions are flooding social media platforms. Was the love plot between Kang Ha (Lee Chae Min) and Jae Yi (Roh Jeong Eui) really well developed? What will happen to the school after the killer was revealed to be Han and a new dead body was discovered? Is there really a possibility for a season 2? Read what we have to say about the finale and what we can expect in the future for the hit show! 

While high-school bullying is an alarming and sensitive topic in Korea, the reality is that it does establish an engaging storyline foundation for shows like these. While it is nothing in comparison to The Glory, the shows unique twist on the separation of social classes and the comical yet thrilling concept of racing on the track being the only way to solve problems among peers makes for an attention-grabbing story. However, some felt that the drama fell flat due to its lack of deeply engaging in certain character’s stories, various plot devices, and inability to thread together certain parts of the narrative. 

As you know, the show follows Kang Ha entering the school as a scholarship student, who faces stark discrimination and coldness from the high-class elite students of Noblesse Oblige Jooshin High School, showcasing the extreme hierarchy between them. He seeks the truth and revenge for the murder of his twin brother Kang Inhan who was revealed to be murdered due to extreme bullying after the school buried the case. The upheaval caused by a new transfer student who disrupts the rigid social order upheld by the top 0.01% is a classic theme we can’t resist.

Tensions rise as Kang Ha confronts Rian (Kim Jae Won), the top-ranked student and heir to the Jooshin Group. Rian’s warning, We’re at Jooshin right now. Don’t do anything you can’t handle,” sets the stage for their clash. The stakes are raised further when Kang Ha provocatively kisses Rian’s girlfriend and Jooshin High’s queen, Jung Jae Yi, signaling the turbulence he will bring to the school – and turbulence was brought all the way to the very end!

Despite all the action built up to the finale, viewers are still filled with curiosity and mixed reviews of the concept of Korea’s actual hierarchy of society. The final episode first reveals that Kang In Han had stumbled upon his teacher Han making out with an elite student Woo Jin (Lee Won Jung) – revealing their inappropriate sexual relationship. In order to cover it all up, Han chases down Inhan in Woo Jin’s car and in an attempt to stop him, she runs him over but he dies in a matter of seconds. His smartphone pen which has a camera on it and is linked to the elite school’s cloud server recording everything and shows Han approaching the body and discovering the pen herself. Terrified by the situation, she stashes it away in hopes of keeping things quiet but soon Woo Jin discovers the pen and the elite school can no longer keep the situation under wraps. The school’s reputation is the only concern – not Han’s final consequences. The drama tried to provide a “Justice is served” happy-ending in a sense as Han is ultimately caught and arrested for her crime. 

Alongside this, the finale also tries to show that the bullies (who aren’t self made but driven to be bullies due to their parent’s aggressive hierarchical tyrannic personalities and desires) have a change of heart, or rather, learn a lesson and develop a sense of responsibility. Jae Yi convinces Rian to apologize for his ruthless bullying and make it right between him and Kang Ha. 

Although he does apologize, it doesn’t come until much later and feels very similar to the way the school sweeps any situation under the rug. Hierarchy reminds us that the rich, especially in Korea, can still try to be sincere but suffer no consequences and the scene highlights the lack of understanding Rian has about his consequences. There seems to be no real empathy over Inhan’s death and Kang Ha reminds him intensely that their bullying caused his death and saying sorry can’t settle the reality of it all. The other bullies do suffer and face punishment as well after getting arrested but it is revealed soon after they are back living their daily lives at the school because they all reappear post credit. Again, rich parents weaseling their kids out of every situation is a wealthy Korean tradition and societal right at this point.

Furthermore, Rian’s mom continues to maintain her power and demonstrate her control. She fires the principal which ultimately puts a halt in her son’s plans. Of all the characters, Rian’s devious and sinister mother is a powerful portrayal of what being an elite in society in Korea is today. Reputation, manipulation, a loss of morality – all to maintain a horrid status quo.  

Credit: Netflix

In the finale some characters are met with decently happy endings – whether they deserve them or not. Woo Jin gives Jae Yi’s father proof of her being pregnant and stated he wouldn’t reveal it to the public if he sends Jae Yi abroad – which he does as motive to help He Ra (Chi Hae Won) without realizing the deep bond between the two girls have shared. With the idea of Jae Yi soon being out of the picture, she spends a final date with Rian and hopes he can live a happy life. However, Kang Ha soon comes to Jae Yi confessing his love for her too! Although their sweet moments (like the swing scene) planted the seed of romantic possibilities, the drama didn’t quite exactly build up enough tension to have us believing Kang Ha loved Jae Yi that deeply – but we need a good story line to grasp on to. Kang Ha ran miles across the city just to find Jae Yi, grasp her in his hunky sweaty arms and apologizes for having a crush on her but he loves her and only wants what’s best for her.

Despite the tension, Jae Yi settles the storm and reveals she isn’t moving to New York but will instead lead a life of her own. Jae Yi’s character evolves from being another student puppet to someone who discovers freedom from the tangling vines of a noble society and a will to develop her own independence. At the end, we can see Jae Yi walking up to a remote fancy island home (she achieved financial independence fast, huh?) and is happily greeted by her mother. Jae Yi is left off finding peace in her storyline – which is supposed to be the happy-ending we want but fans felt that the drama still left loose ends as the Jooshin school hierarchy is still running amok and that the rich are still behaving as they have always been.

One thing that seems to be disappointing fans (aside from the lackluster love plot – big problems there) is that the drama doesn’t end with a real satisfying or successful take down of the rich society. Instead, the bullies remain bullies and people like Rian’s mother will continue to exploit others for personal gain and to move up higher and higher in a class dominated world. “Admit it or Despise It” as the trailer poster says.

To top it all off, we return back to where it all began. Jooshin. In a shock of events, Hera discovers a dead body in the school. All the previous cast members appear and are shocked by the discovery as well. While the identity of the dead body wasn’t revealed, the jaw-dropping revelation was seeing Kang Ha walking smugly and confidently towards the body and texting Rian “Are you surprised?” with Rian staring handsomely but worrisomely into the camera before the credits roll up. Season 2? I think YES! Before reading our final thoughts, check out what some of the viewers felt about the finale below. 

Despite, however, the finale being…what it is, what can we expect from season 2 exactly – if there is one? We still don’t know who the dead student is and the sudden character change in Kang Ha makes viewers feel restless and unsettled. Does the elite social system change Kang Ha and does he become a disciple of the system ready to gain power and overthrow Rian’s family? A chess piece ready to play the same game? Will Jae Yi be dragged out of her moment in paradise? Will new characters come into action and show just how even more twisted Korea’s social issues, pressure, and status quo can be? There is enough content to make an appealing story but we can only hope that the narrative can feel more complete and elevated if there is a season two. Hierarchy is an entertaining show to watch, very on par with Sky Castle’s gossip-girl like drama. However, it can’t hold a candle to the masterpiece The Glory

What did you think of Hierarchy overall? Did the finale satisfy your mind and are you hoping for a season 2? Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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