Red Rose Season 1 Review and Ending Explained – Dated Techno-Horror Has Some Charms

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: February 18, 2023 (Last updated: March 12, 2024)
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Red Rose Season 1 Review and Ending Explained
Red Rose Season 1 (Credit - BBC and Netflix)


The messaging is a bit dated at this point, but Red Rose delivers so-so British horror anchored by solid performances from charismatic young actors.

Red Rose, a 2022 BBC horror series that is now a Netflix original, is at once both distinctly contemporary and behind the times. It’s a cautionary technology-is-evil tale that transfers the terror to our phones since that’s where most of us live now, but it’s making points that have been more stylishly hammered home in film and TV over the last few years, from Unfriended on the big screen to various episodes of Black Mirror on the small one.

Red Rose has its charms, including a good sense of teenage anxieties and a potent mystery, but its love of tech can also leave its humanity by the wayside.

Red Rose Season 1 Review and Plot Summary

This is a product of Michael and Paul Clarkson, aka the Clarkson Twins, Bolton brothers who set the action in their hometown, which is all the better to emphasize a dreary sense of social exclusion since nothing good ever really happens there anyway. And the app-based menace is relatable for any parent of teenagers who can’t tilt their heads away from their devices. Despite its familiarity, the premise still has some topical power.

And Red Rose is good at justifying the allure of its titular app. It’s an easy sell for snarky GCSE student Rochelle (Isis Hainsworth), who is still grieving her mother’s suicide and is gripped by poverty and a lack of opportunities. First come material goods, then social status.

But then comes risky social no-nos and blackmail, sticking Roch in the midst of a tryst between her friends Wren (Amelia Clarkson) and Noah (Harry Redding). Quickly the app runs the risk of ruining the lives of everyone involved.

There’s nothing unusual about this setup, really, or indeed any of the themes, but the Clarkson Twins do find interesting ways to open the concept up and raise the stakes, and as mentioned above, the anti-internet messaging is probably more relevant than ever.

Weirdly enough, though, there’s still a feeling of the whole thing being dated, and the drama amounting to something ultimately a bit nebulous and disappointing.

The characters are strong, though, and the young actors bring them to life well. They’re not as beholden to the usual genre archetypes as you might expect and there’s an authentic Englishness to it all – like Lockwood & Co. before it – that I’m partial to.

The script yields some genuine surprises here and there and that’s enough to keep you going even as the whole thing builds to an unsatisfying ending. If you can overlook the slightly dated overall aesthetic, feel, and central message, and horror that wavers in and out of focus, there’s a pretty solid story of grief, social navigation, and the allure of exploitative technology here if you’re looking for it.

Red Rose Season 1 Ending Explained

What is Red Rose?

The titular Red Rose is a mobile app, though an unusually intrusive one. We’re introduced to it primarily through Rochelle as it rapidly takes control of her entire life since so much of it is contained in her phone.

It manipulates her texts, calls, and camera, pushing her into increasingly precarious social predicaments, and while her death early on is supposedly a suicide, there’s a strong sense that the app itself is responsible for it.

While Red Rose toys with supernaturalism in its early episodes, this is misdirection. As the show progresses it reveals a much more human and arguably more terrifying origin for the software.

The brainchild of a Manchester-based high school student named Jacob, it began as, simply, a way for a lusty young boy to accumulate information on his crush, Alyssa. However, with input from various online co-conspirators, it grew in scope, eventually becoming an all-consuming bit of tech that could access every detail of a person’s life.

However, having access to this information did little for Jacob, who still couldn’t win over Alyssa. A laughing stock, he handed the keys to the kingdom to an enigmatic figure called “The Gardener”, which would turn out to be, if we’re putting things mildly, quite a mistake.

The Gardener uses the app to torture and eventually murder Alyssa, and then Jacob, and then Rochelle. But why? Somewhat predictably, for entertainment. Red Rose is being used on the Dark Web to torment people for the enjoyment of sickos watching online.

Red Rose Season 1 Ending Explained

Who is the Gardener?

Red Rose plays a bit of a double bluff with the identity of the Gardener. In the finale, Wren’s father, Rick, is kidnapped by a man who is assumed to be the enigmatic figure, and Wren eventually kills him in a scuffle.

However, it is later revealed that the Gardener is actually a woman who earlier spared Noah’s life and suggests to Wren that she led her to her father’s kidnapper to keep the story spicy. The Gardener has been playing everyone all along, though there’s still a little ambiguity in their real identity. The woman might be another red herring, but that’s for subsequent seasons to explore.

Is Red Rose destroyed?

While Jaya manages to delete almost every trace of Red Rose, as the Gardener puts it, she can’t delete an idea. There will always be an appetite for the macabre, and at least for now, the Dark Web will be the best place to find it.

While Red Rose might not be able to continue to exist in its previous form, something very much like it will always spring up in its place, as evidenced by the final scene, in which a young man in Tokyo gets a link to download Red Rose, beginning the cycle anew.

Is Red Rose based on a true story?

No, the story of Red Rose is based on an original concept by twin brothers Michael and Paul Clarkson. However, the writers did allow for some real-life inspiration. For instance, the series was shot and set in Bolton, Greater Manchester, where both writers grew up.

Speaking to The Bolton News, Paul Clarkson explained how they used their own experiences to create the series:

“Writers do write what they know. We draw from inspirations from real life. This really is a love letter to Bolton. It is partly inspired by ourselves and our friendships and our family stories, some of which we think are very important to try and highlight.”

As fans of the horror genre, it was only a matter of time before they told the story of The Ring in Bolton. In an interview with The Guardian, they even said as much:

“We always knew we wanted to tell a story in our home town. We were asked: ‘What concepts do you have?’ And Michael went: ‘Something like Scream or The Ring, but set in Bolton.’”

Added Michael:

“We were growing up watching horror, saying: ‘Bloody hell, can you imagine this happening in our house?’ Like in The Ring when you get the call: ‘Seven days …’ People would be like: ‘What? Who do you want? Sorry?’”

They decided that a modern-day retelling of The Ring should instead involve mobile phones and apps. They used that to explore the relationship between teenagers and their addiction to the screen.

What did you think of Red Rose Season 1? Comment below.

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