WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the Doom Patrol Season 1, Episode 14 "Penultimate Patrol," streaming now on DC Universe.
The first season of Doom Patrol hinged on the team finding mentor and father-like figure Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton). As they frantically searched, we saw the Chief being tormented in his prison by Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk) as part of some sadistic game.
Now, we finally discover the villain has been trying to mentally break Niles, all so he could reveal some dark secret he's been harboring for years. As the Doom Patrol arrive in the dimension known as the White Space, Niles finally cracks under the pressure, shocking the audience by confessing he was the person responsible for all their accidents.
We were always under the impression he saved these individuals by taking them into his manor and making them whole again. After all, Niles worked on giving Cliff Steele (Robotman) his robot body, helping Rita Farr (Elasti-Woman) and Larry Trainor (Negative Man) regain their humanity, and also aiding Crazy Jane in trying to piece together her psyche and all the personalities within. But as Nobody brings his charges face to face with him, the guilt's too much and Niles folds by admitting he's not their savior -- they were simply the end result of his real-life experiments.
The episode ends there, but if you consider the series so far, we've seen red flags. Niles' checkered past came to light when we witnessed him killing a colleague to protect his cavewoman lover decades before, as well as how he told Nobody he'll keep her location secret, even if it meant the death of his students. We thought it was a bluff, but looking even further back to how Niles treated Cliff, his resolve to help damaged people looks only to be in the interest of self-gain.
When Cliff gained sentience and started complaining about how long Niles kept him offline, the Chief simply switched Robotman off, affirming he'd only care for Cliff's humanity so long as it wasn't annoying. Even Willoughby Kipling, the John Constantine-esque figure Niles worked with in the past, warned the students their mentor had a dark side.
Nobody basks in this moment, gloating "the truth will set you free," smelling impending victory. Interestingly enough, we don't know how Niles engineered all these tragedies, but as we see with Cyborg's creation, his hand can be as subtle as ever. He was the one who told Vic's father, Silas, to save the boy and let the mom, Elinore, die after their lab accident, as Vic would take to the robotic integration easier. Things like this really show how manipulative Niles is and reminds us of the Grant Morrison run in the '90s where the Chief was a selfish, conniving individual.
In Doom Patrol #57, Niles paralyzed Cliff with a single phrase after he found out the Chief killed Tempest. We discovered the truth there, as Niles covered up his tracks following Tempest discovering his shady past. The Chief came into the light as someone inspired by Frankenstein, but rather than come off like an obsessed, mad scientist, he devoted time and studied quietly in the shadows to create heroes from tragedies. He believed greatness could come from disaster, evidenced by his own story of growing into a genius inventor despite being crippled by General Immortus.
Niles felt once he introduced catastrophe and instability into the lives of various people, once they passed this test, they'd become something stronger, which fashioned the Doom Patrol as, not just his personal army, but a testament of success. The Chief was eventually killed by the Candlemaker when he tried to wipe out half the human race and replace them with twisted creations of his own, with his charges sickened by how he wanted the world to overcome its flaws and rise above the danger he placed it in.
Since then, DC has offered Niles redemption, but it remains to be seen what route the show will follow. We don't know how drastic his actions have been and to what extent he ruined these folks' lives, so there's a chance he may not have gone full villain. However, it'll be hard to empathize with him, even on an antihero level, because, as it stands, Niles is nothing more than a traitor and someone we can't see the Doom Patrol ever trusting again.
Streaming now on DC Universe, Doom Patrol stars Brendan Fraser as Cliff Steele, Matt Bomer as Larry Trainor, Diana Guerrero as Crazy Jane, Alan Tudyk as Mr. Nobody, April Bowlby as Rita Farr, Joivan Wade as Vic Stone, and Timothy Dalton as Niles Caulder.