In December of 2012, the pop culture universe exploded when Dan Humphrey was revealed as Gossip Girl. To this day, fans comment on the controversial decision to reveal the Brooklyn outsider as the puppet master of the affluent Upper East Siders in the end. (Even actor Penn Badgley has commented on the Gossip Girl ending’s lack of rhyme or reason in recent years.) Although optimists could back it up with the romanticized idea that Dan was just trying to get closer to It Girl Serena (Blake Lively), who he ended up marrying, the masses really didn’t see it coming. But, apparently, there were also two other characters who could have been Gossip Girl — and they could’ve been arguably as shocking and (un)believable.
Gossip Girl fan theories ranged from the housekeeper Dorota (Zuzanna Szadkowski) to the incredibly cunning Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick). As it turns out, writers actually had both Nate (Chace Crawford) and Serena’s brother Eric van der Woodsen (Connor Paolo) in mind to play the Gossip Girl mastermind. InVanity Fair’s 10-year anniversary piece, the writers stated that they didn't know Dan would be Gossip Girl from the get go and were considering Nate and Eric in the beginning stages. Thus, there’s some validity to the numerous theories discounting Dan’s credibility as the ultimate center of the show.
In hindsight, either choice could've made more sense than Dan Humphrey. Nate might not have been the smartest character, but he was in the in crowd. He was born into status and wealth and had romances with about a dozen characters, including the UES queens Serena and Blair (Leighton Meester). Not to mention, he ended up running the fictional NY newspaper The Spectator and wanted to run for mayor. Learning the elite’s “golden boy” was actually a low-key, destructive insider creating chaos and spilling the tea all along, only to go on and do it on a larger scale, would’ve been short of genius — and certainly been a great twist on his character that the show sometimes seemed to have no idea what else to do with.
There was also potential for Serena’s younger brother Eric to be the wizard behind the curtain. Fans rooted for Eric from the beginning, after he was introduced in a rehab clinic for attempting suicide. Most of Eric’s issues surrounded his personal struggle, interpersonal challenges with his family, and his friendship with Jenny Humphrey (Taylor Momsen). For the most part, he didn’t feed into the drama and avoided it whenever possible unless he was inadvertently dragged into it. But because he was half on the inside and half on the outside, this definitely could’ve worked. And his character disappeared after Season 4 (when he graduated St. Jude's and went to Sarah Lawrence College). Returning in the series finale for his sister’s wedding could’ve ended with an epic mic drop, revealing he was orchestrating the blog from afar all along.
Even though both characters couldn't have made less sense than Dan Humphrey in the end, fans will forever have to live with the fact that Dan Humphrey was Gossip Girl. When he explained the reveal, he drove the whole “outsider" thing home pretty hard, saying, “I wasn't born into this world, maybe I could write myself into it. I might have been a joke, but at least these people were talking about me." Who would've thought all these years later, Dan would still being written and talked about?