Hierarchy – K-drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

Newbie Party: Truth or Dare

Episode 1 of Hierarchy starts with heavy breathing and a man rushing down a hallway. Whispers of “you’re crazy” echo off the walls as this student, In-han, hurries away. Outside, he makes a call, deciding he’s going to expose everything. However, he’s smashed in with a car as he steps out and he collapses on the ground, bleeding out.

We then cut across to an elite school some time later. This is Jooshin High and the students are the most prestigious in Korea. At the assembly during the start of the new semester, the head teacher introduces the scholarship student of the season – Kang Ha.

While he gives an enthusiastic speech, he immediately alienates himself from the others as he doesn’t have a social media profile and he’s “too happy” according to the elite guys who run the school, including Ri-an, the resident bad boy. Kang is ostracised from the others and ends up as a loner.

Jae-i appears to be the Queen Bee of the school and word quickly spreads that she’ll be coming back after a period of absence. This immediately piques Ri-an’s interest, given he’s in a relationship with her. The group agree to meet on Sunday at the track, but as for Jae-i, she’s not quite the perfect princess were led to believe.

She’s micromanaged by her father over her clothes, her siblings are praised in front of her, and her dad hates her birth mother. She’s the heir to the Jaeyul Group and her dad reminds her of this, forcing her to stand in line and not rebel in any way.

The piano player for this event happens to be Kang Ha and his act of kindness toward Jae-i is immediately put to the test. She demands he hand over his shirt so she can get dressed after ripping her own dress off in frustration. He agrees, Jae-i puts it on and leaves.

At the track, Jae-i shows up to see her friends, Woo-jin and Hera. However, Ri-an is also there too. She coldly decides they should play a game, with the winner getting their wish granted. This stems from 3 laps round the track. Jae-i wins, and her wish… is for Ri-an to leave her alone. She decides that they’re over.

This bombshell reveal sees Woo-jin and Hera make a hasty departure. Jae-i has been in America for a while and it seems something happened to her there to make her change her mind.

As a result of this, Ri-an is in a foul mood at school while Jae-i is completely nonchalant to the whole situation. Kang Ha is caught right in the middle of this maelstrom. At school, he’s warned by some of the other students to stay away from the central clique kids – Jae-i, Hera, Woo-jin and Ri-an. They’re “royalty” and have a rich history of their families being integral to the school.

Ha is warned not to snoop and get involved… but he refuses to back down or act differently around them. One of the kids though reminds him that the open position for a scholarship kid was as a direct result of another student being killed by Ri-an. Ha though scoffs at that notion, claims he’ll keep it in mind and walks away, smiling.

Straight after, he heads over to the “royalty” kids and says hi. Je-i is amused by him and decides to invite Kang Ha along to the welcome party they have going on that night. It’s a wild, raucous event, right out by the pool. There’s plenty of splashing, drinking and partying. Kang Ha sticks out like a sore thumb given he’s wearing his uniform.

There’s a series of games, starting with a whole bunch of shots handed out to the central group. Now, “one” of them has something special in the shot but it turns out that all of them have been spiked. After downing the alcohol (which is doused with a strange red liquid), he finds himself spiralling out of control.

The other kids all laugh at Ha until he gets a grip in the bathroom and returns to the foray. Right after this, it’s time for a game of Truth or Dare. As Kang Ha tries to stay sober, Jae-i receives a strange message from someone claiming that she’s “finally back”. There’s also a whole bunch of mp4 files that link back to October 27th last year. She’s blackmailed, and right afterwards she gets a message from Ri-an, who asks to talk.

Inside, Ri-an hands her a bouquet of flowers but she’s having none of it. As the episode closes out, we get a lovely little bombshell reveal. It turns out Kang Ha is actually related to In-han, the guy who was killed by this group at the tart of episode 1. He vowed to do whatever it took to find out who did this to him, and that’s what he’s going to do.

Ha bursts into the room with Ri-an and Jae-i and immediately kisses her in front of him. She actually kisses him back though, which shocks Ri-an to his core.

The Episode Review

So Hierarchy has set itself up as a sort of Korean version of Netflix’s Elite, to mixed results. The formula is immediately familiar and while it is endearing, it doesn’t have its own identity. At least not yet. 

The murder mystery element running in the background is certainly interesting but the basic premise is a little too blasé right now.

You can definitely understand the allure though and why Netflix have decided to go this route but whether it pays off or not, only time will tell. The show is shaping up to be an interesting one but whether it can stand out from the competition or not still remains to be seen.


Next Episode

Expect a full-season review once the season ends!

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