Teen horror Red Rose arrived on BBC Three this week to ruin the sacred relationship between a youth and their phone. As if the internet wasn’t scary enough already, in Red Rose a sinister app appears to drive teenagers to commit suicide. Is it supernatural? Who’s behind it? Why? And who will it strike next? This Bolton-set chiller is refreshingly funny at the same time as being super dark. Created by Michael and Paul Clarkson who have horror pedigree as producers on The Haunting of Bly Manor, the show features a strong ensemble cast of scrappy Northerners who call their collective group ‘the dickheads’. Over eight episodes the mystery of Red Rose slowly unfolds with some big old twist right up to the conclusion. Let’s break down the big questions posed by that ending.
Is Red Rose supernatural?
Nope, turns out man made. It’s not 100% clear how the app managed to make it look like Rochelle’s mum was with her or like Rochelle was reaching out to Wren from beyond the grave, we’re just going to say “technology” and leave it at that. Red Rose is man made and woman controlled.
Who built Red Rose?
Incel-adjacent tech nerd Jacob (Charlie Hiscock) did. He built it to attempt to super-creepily woo fellow student Alyssa (Robyn Cara). The idea would be that the app would find out everything about Alyssa so that Jacob could get an in. The two become friends (totally on dodgy pretences) but Jacob tells her he likes her and she says she doesn’t feel the same. Rather than letting it go at that point he is tempted by another user called the Gardener to allow him (although it’s actually a her, more on that later) to have admin rights so he can get closer to Alyssa. Instead of helping Jacob the Gardener uses the app to frighten and torture Alyssa into jumping off a roof while the other Red Rose users laugh and jeer. Later Jacob takes his own life.
What happened to Roch?
Driven increasingly mad by Red Rose and ostracized from her friendship group because of the app messing with her messages and social media account Rochelle (Isis Hainsworth) is cut off and desperate, and thinking the app is supernatural and possibly connected to her dead mother she tries to exorcise it. It doesn’t work. When she is found drowned in the bath suicide is blamed. But her best mate Wren (Amelia Clarkson) knows she wouldn’t have done that (because Roch’s mum took her own life leaving the family devastated). In the final episode of Red Rose we have hard proof that Wren is right. There is video footage of someone breaking in and murdering Roch. The Gardener? Unlikely actually, as we learn that Red Rose is part of a wider network.
What’s going on with the Red Rose network?
By the end of the show Red Rose goes from creepy Ringu-esque chills to grim Hostel-esque torture. We learn that Red Rose is also a website accessible through the Dark Web. It would appear that people pay a lot of money (there’s an oblique reference to this) to watch teenagers kill themselves, or even to get involved in person in goading and even violence. It’s going to have been one of these ‘players’ who went round and actually murdered Roch when it became apparent she wasn’t going to do it herself. Perhaps it was the gentleman named ‘P1gfuck3r’ (Gary Fannin) who did it? He’s one of the would-be attackers trying to harm Wren that Jaya (Ashna Rabheru) manages to frighten off with a threat to go public about his identity.
Who is the Gardener?
It turns out the Gardener is not the bald headed chap who Wren beats to death. In fact the Gardener is the incredibly creepy woman in the I Heart BLTN t-shirt. She’s the one that kidnaps Noah, and then later “helps” the dickheads by telling Noah the address of where to find Rick. Which actually is all part of her plan but again, more on that in a bit. The Gardener is played by Harrie Hayes who in real life is an entirely non-sinister looking woman but in Red Rose she manages to be terrifying. Never has the phrase “I want to be a dickhead” been uttered with such foreboding and induced such primal fear.
So she was the orchestrator of the cult of Red Rose and presumably how this was monetised on the Dark Web. Who she is and where she came from isn’t yet known – second season perhaps? We wouldn’t rule it out. Certainly in the final episode when Jaya runs into the woman who claims to be the Gardener (it is only her word, but it seems legit) and Jaya asks if it’s over, the Gardener shrugs. She points out that although Jaya has shut down the site, Red Rose is an idea and that is something that can’t be killed.
As an aside it’s also quite interesting to note that the Gardener has a southern RP accent. There are shades here of the posh Southerner fetishising and exploiting victims in the North that holds some resonance. You’ll never be a true dickhead, love.
Wren and Rick
As the Gardener explains to Jaya, the goal with Wren became something other than murder once Red Rose set its sights on her. Wren’s determination and fiery temper (remember, Red Rose orchestrated the social posts which resulted in Wren having a punch up with the two Jennas) marked her out as a different kind of victim. The Gardener says she wanted to see how far she could push her.
The answer to that turns out to be murder. Pushed to the brink, with her dad, Rick, tortured and tied to a chair, taunted by the Red Rose network and the person she believes to be responsible for killing her best friend, Wren snaps and beats him to death.
Rick has been in prison for killing someone in the past. Her worst fear, the one that Red Rose provoked her with, has come true – like her father she is capable of killing. In a final act of love, and of penance for failing her as a father, Rick takes the blame for the murder.
After Rick is taken away the remaining dickheads hug, relieved that it’s now over. But is it? Surely not. We’re taken to a cafe in Tokyo where a group of youngsters are chatting, one talking about how he plans to fund a move to America by setting up an Only Fans when a familiar phone chime sounds. It’s Red Rose offering him a chance to enhance his life…
No news on this but it’s not out of the question. Though the dickheads are relieved things are over, that might be temporary. Ashley and Jaya were both very nearly killed by Red Rose, Wren had gone through massive trauma and Noah and Taz have been at the forefront of trying to bring it down. They are all also known to the Red Rose network who had been following them all for a while. The Gardener is still out there and Noah and Jaya both know what she looks like. Outside the dickheads, Red Rose has been responsible for at least two other deaths and in all likelihood more. What will Rick say when questioned by police about who the man he (aka Wren) killed is? And indeed who is he? There are many questions still to be answered and with Red Rose established as more than just a social media version of Hostel there are ways the show could expand.
Red Rose is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.