Review: There’s Nothing New Or Interesting About Netflix’s ‘Hierarchy’

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: June 9, 2024
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Hierarchy Review - A Wasteful Redo of Elite
Hierarchy | Image via Netflix


Hierarchy is a lazy redo of every teen drama you’ve seen, though particularly Elite, as if we needed to see any more of that.

It’s easy to see why a TV show would want to emulate the success of Elite, Netflix’s class-conscious Spanish teen drama that was one of the streamer’s first real breakout international hits. But it’s hard to imagine why a TV show would choose to do so years after Elite became a terrible parody of itself. Nevertheless, here we are with Hierarchy.

The similarities are obvious. Promiscuous, good-looking teens. Snazzy uniforms. Very obvious lines of class separating the haves from the have-nots in a prestigious educational institution in which nobody ever learns anything.

The key difference is that Hierarchy is a Korean drama. This is normally a short way of saying that it’s a much better version, but the claim unfortunately cannot be made in this case. Hierarchy is a knock-off of a well-worn formula so obvious and layabout in its homage that it’s a waste of time simply to sit through.

Naturally, it’ll be mega-popular anyway.

It’s not difficult to see why. Elite was popular in the first place because it touched on a lot universal themes mixed with a lot of salacious and provocative nonsense. Everyone loves that combination, which is to say nothing of the cast’s appeal.

Hierarchy even has the good sense to run for only seven episodes, hoping to capture Elite’s rocket-fuelled pace and twisty-turny binge-ready structure. But each episode does run comfortably over an hour, so they can’t help but feel long-winded either way.

But why wouldn’t they? Everything about Hierarchy, every character and quirk and theme and plot beat, is cribbed from another similar show. It offers nothing new. Not only is the show unashamed of this fact, but it revels in it. It delights in serving up the same lowest common denominator “entertainment” with the surety that a gullible crowd will lap it all up regardless.

I was genuinely annoyed by this show’s lack of identity and effort.

By “effort”, I mean on a conceptual level. I’d be lying if I claimed there wasn’t a good amount of craft on display, and everyone in front of and behind the camera is clearly trying. Everything from the production design to the acting and even editing are at the high standard we’ve come to expect from showy Korean productions. But to what end?

This is the issue. Jooshin High School is, functionally, Las Encinas, or any one of a number of other fictional high-school settings. The classist prejudices and social markers are the same. The big issues are the same, and the cliched gossipy interpersonal relationships are, you guessed it, the same.

Even the big, cheesy reveals and cliffhangers are the same. It’s maddening.

All genre entertainment is, of course, derivative. This is unavoidable. But I’ve seen direct remakes feel less borrowed than this, less strung together from worn-out concepts and aging templates. Director Bae Hyun-Jin expends considerable creative effort here retelling a story that has been told countless times already, in precisely the same way it is always told. What’s the point?

When Hierarchy invariably becomes the hottest thing on Netflix over the next few weeks and a sequel season is greenlit as usual, it’ll be a depressing stretch for home entertainment, which is seemingly determined to live up to accusations of peddling same-old slop.


Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
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