Max Harding is a recurring character in the fifth season of Gossip Girl. An aspiring chef in Los Angeles, Max was introduced as the boyfriend of Ivy Dickens who moved with her from Miami. With plans to open his own restaurant with Ivy by his side, Max was shocked when Ivy informed him she was leaving him and Los Angeles.
Max returns later, showing up in New York in search of financial backers for his restaurant. However, while there he meets back up with Ivy, who is masquerading as Manhattan socialite Charlie Rhodes. His presence in New York posed a threat to Ivy's ruse and life among the van der Woodsens. Max then meets Serena while walking and the two end up sharing a kiss. Max recognizes "Charlie" as Ivy so he finds proof and tries to warn the Van der Woodsen family only to be sent away.
Max is first seen in Yes, Then Zero at a restaurant where he works with Ivy in Los Angeles, California. The two are living together in a studio apartment trying to make things work. When Ivy runs into Serena, who still believes Ivy is Charlie, she tells Max that she wants to take him up on his offer to move to Portland and get away from LA. However, Serena finds where Ivy is living before they can leave and convinces her to come back to New York. Ivy breaks up with Max and moves out.
In The Big Sleep No More, Max comes to New York to return Ivy's things and have an interview for a chef job. He randomly meets Serena on the street while looking for Ivy. Serena tells Ivy, who is unaware it is Max, and Ivy encourages her to take him to lunch and hang out with him. Serena walks Max to his interview and tells him a tip to help him get the job. After the interview, Max finds Serena to thank her and Diana Payne invites him to be Serena's date at the Sleep No More performance. She sets up Max, Serena, and Ivy so that Max kisses Ivy while looking for Serena. Max discovers Gossip Girl's website and finds out that Ivy is pretending to be Charlie. In All The Pretty Sources, Max brings copies of Gossip Girl articles about Ivy/Charlie to the Van Der Woodsen penthouse looking for her. He asks Lily about her, saying he has always known Charlie as Ivy. Ivy makes up a story about how Carol made her change her name because being a Rhodes ruined her life and that having a different name is good because she can meet people and know they aren't using her. Lily believes her story instantly because it sounds exactly like Carol. Ivy tells Max that this is what her life is really like, that she does love him, and offers him $50,000 to go to Portland and start a restaurant where she could eventually come join him. On his way out, Max runs into Lily and sees a family photo with Carol and Ivy. Having see Carol in a program of a production Ivy was in back in Florida, he realizes Ivy has been lying. At Blair's bridal shower, Charlie wins a ring Serena is giving away at the party, Max shows up and tells Ivy he knows she is lying and that the real Charlie Rhodes is in Florida. He demands the truth from Ivy who does't give him answers but still promises him money. She gives him the ring she won as a down payment. She asks Max to stay away from the Van Der Woodsen's and she would get him the rest of the money. At the end of the episode, Max shows up at the Waldorf's and apologizes to Serena for standing her up and asks for a second chance. She agrees and tells him to use it wisely. Max calls Ivy and tells her that he wants $500,000 instead of only $50,000.
In Rhodes to Perdition, it is revealed that Max and Serena spent all night exploring Manhattan together. When Max asks Serena to hang out again later, she says no because she has to attend a party in CeCe's honor. Being a chef, Max offers to bake a cake for the party and asks Serena to help. Serena says yes to the second date. Max meets with Ivy at a cafe and asks for his money. Max tells Ivy that dating Serena is his insurance policy to getting his money. He begins to blackmail her into getting the money. Ivy goes to see Serena and reminds her that Max originally came to New York to see his ex girlfriend and that she might be moving too fast. Serena understands where Ivy is coming from and decides to cancel. Max figures out that Ivy convinced Serena to cancel and tells her that she has 24 hours to get the money. Max comes to the Waldorf's with a cake for CeCe and tells Serena that he hasn't thought about his ex since they met. Serena invites him to the party but Max declines and tells Serena he will see her the next day, At the Van Der Woodsen's, Serena overhears an argument between Carol and Lily and figures out that Ivy and Charlie are the same person and that she was trying to keep her away from Max. She calls Max and tells him the party was canceled and asks him to come to the apartment to celebrate being over Ivy. He comes over and Serena confronts them about having met and dated before. Ivy then explains again that Carol had her change her name. Max says that Ivy is the one scamming them. Ivy lies and says Max has a tape of her and is using it as blackmail. Max says he has proof and discovers that the program is missing from his jacket. They all believe Ivy and kick Max out of the apartment. Later when Carol and Ivy talk, Carol reveals she took the program from Max and tells Ivy this way they can both keep their family. Max calls Ivy and tells her that he is not leaving until he gets what he deserves, to which Ivy replies that no one can touch her since she is a Rhodes now.
Max makes his final appearance in Riding In Town Cars With Boys. Max calls Ivy and tells her that if she doesn't get him the money, he will tell anyone who will listen about her true identity. He goes to The Spectator to see Nate, who turns him away, claiming that Serena and Ivy already filled him in on who he is. When leaving Nate's office, Max follows William van der Bilt and overhears him arguing with Tripp van der Bilt. He tells Tripp that maybe they can help each other, seeing as they are both tired of being pushed around by the same people. Outside Ivy's party, Nate and Max run into each other and Max tells Nate that he is going to tell the reporters who Ivy is, to which Nate tells him he will make sure he can't get in. Nate tells Ivy that Max is going to expose her to the press and that a story is a story and can take on a life of its own. When Nate finds out Chuck and Blair are at the party together, he explains to Ivy that he hopes the paparazzi don't find out because they could potentially crash and ruin the party. Ivy sends a tip to Gossip Girl that they are there together, hoping that the paparazzi would crash and Max wouldn't get a chance to tell his story. Max calls Ivy one final time and tells her he got some money and is going back to Portland. He tells her that once he leaves, she will be trapped in this lie forever. She says that's okay since it's more than a role, that this is her life now and the Rhodes are her family now. He asks her how their love can be real when she's a total fake. Ivy doesn't reply and hangs up. At the hospital, Ivy is very upset and blames herself for Chuck and Blair's accident. Rufus asks if she's okay and she says she sent the blast to Gossip Girl and did it to protect herself. Rufus asks why she needed to protect herself when Max is a total fraud and Ivy replies that she is the fraud.
Nate receives a tip from Gossip Girl in Father and the Bride that the car Blair and Chuck were in during the accident was the one ordered for him. Gossip Girl sends Nate a picture of Max with an envelope of cash. Nate figures out that Tripp was behind the car mixup and enlists Serena and William's help to expose him. When confronted, Tripp explains that he had Max drain the brake fluid from the car and paid him in two increments: once before he did it, and once after it was done, which explained the photo. When Tripp met Max to give him the rest of the money he double checked the car, and realized Max played him, took the money, and ran.
In Cross Rhodes, the real Charlie shows up at the hospital where CeCe is admitted and where the Van Der Woodsen's, Rufus, Carol, and Ivy are. Ivy's true identity is revealed when the real Charlie shows up and Serena remarks that Max was telling the truth after all.