Scully is partnered with another agent and assigned to investigate a crime scene photographer but her encounter with him leads to deathly consequences for them both.
In New York City, a man with a camera follows a woman from an elevator through a corridor to another elevator, where all the people appear to be gray. He gets off on a floor before the woman's and runs down the stairs. Lights flicker and the elevator cable snaps. As the man reaches the basement, the cab crashes and its door spills open to reveal the woman's wrist, covered with blood. The man begins to snap photos.
In D.C., Mulder and Scully are working on background checks when A.D. Kersh calls Scully into his office. Agent Peyton Ritter has come from New York with a report on a police photographer whose film reveals in several cases that he took photos of a death scene before summoned by the police, then returned afterwards to take official pictures. The photographer is Alfred Fellig, the man who took the photos at the elevator. Kersh tells Scully that because she has expertise in forensic pathology, he believes there is hope for her career' Mulder is a lost cause. While Mulder snoops in the material on Scully's desk and points out that the case looks like an X-file - and that Kersh is obviously splitting them up - the photographer follows another man in New York, whom he witnesses having a heart attack. As the man falls, still breathing, he looks gray like the people in the elevator. Fellig takes photos of his death.
Scully and Ritter discover that Fellig has worked as a police photographer since 1964, but are surprised to see that he has not aged at all in any of his official photos on his renewal applications. Elsewhere in the city, Fellig watches a criminal kill a youth for his sneakers. When he approaches to take photos of the dying young man, the murderer returns and repeatedly stabs Fellig, but he pulls the knife out of his back and walks away. Scully and Ritter learn of the crime and of the fact that Fellig's prints were on the knife, so he is brought in for questioning.Ritter demands to know how Fellig always seems to be around when people die, but Scully realizes that the man is in pain and asks whether he was wounded in the attack which Fellig says he merely observed. When she sees the wounds on his back and sends him to the hospital, Ritter angrily reminds her that they were looking to bust him, not exonerate him. Scully coolly replies that she thought they were looking for the truth.
Mulder calls Scully to tell her he has kept up with the case - he knows that Malcolm Wiggins is the name of the criminal who actually committed the stabbing - and asks whether she'll let him do a background check on Fellig. Ritter leaves Scully staking out Fellig's apartment, but Scully is unnerved when she sees Fellig shooting photos of her out his window and bangs on his door, demanding to know how he took photos at a crime scene before the police even knew the crime had been committed. He invites her to take a ride with him so he can show her. They drive all night while he looks for "the shot." Finally he sees a prostitute who appears to be gray to him. Fellig tells Scully that the woman will be dead very soon, though he doesn't know how she will die. A pimp approaches the woman and begins to harass her. Scully leaps out of the car with her firearm, announcing that she's a police officer and handcuffing the pimp, but when the prostitute tries to flee, she is hit by a truck while Fellig takes photos of the event.
Ritter is angry that Scully left the stakeout and confronted Fellig; the young agent is determined to press murder charges. Scully asks if his methods include fudging evidence, and her angry new partner warns her that he will tell Kersh if she screws up the conviction. Then Mulder calls to tell Scully that as far as he can tell, Fellig is 149 years old; he previously worked under the names Henry Strand and L.H. Rice, but the fingerprints are identical. Scully admits to Mulder that the case looks like an X-file, and he advises her to get to Fellig before he becomes someone else.
Scully goes to warn Fellig that he is about to be charged for murder, which she isn't even sorry about because he profits off people's deaths. He scoffs at the notion that he should cry for them when he considers the dying to be lucky, and says, "I don't take those people. HE does." In his darkroom, Fellig shows Scully a photo of a dead woman with an odd fuzzy shape around her head, which the photographer claims is Death. When asked why he bothers to try to photograph Death, Fellig says that it's so he can look Death in the face...and die. He claims to be as old as Mulder said he was, and says he cannot kill himself. Scully tells Fellig that she doesn't believe him, but he says that he knows she does - that's why she's there.
When looking through a book of Fellig's old photographs, she sees the name "Lewis Brady" as the photographer. Withdrawing to another room, she calls D.C. and asks Mulder to check on the name. Overhearing, Fellig picks her pocket to steal her phone when she returns, continuing their conversation about how he can tell when people are going to die by how they appear to him. A while later, Mulder calls Ritter in search of Scully. Mulder says that Fellig is a murderer...though he murdered under the name Lewis Brady, killing two people in a Connecticut hospital to try to catch up with Death. Since Scully's phone is turned off, Mulder asks Ritter to find her; the other agent is already on the way to Fellig's.
Inside Fellig's darkroom, Scully points out that most people would like to live forever, but Fellig says that love doesn't last forever. When she asks about the science of his immortality, he says he was meant to die of yellow fever, but he refused to look Death in the face, so instead Death took the kind nurse who had taken care of him.
Then he notices that Scully is gray, and says, "You're very lucky." Seeing the look on his face, Scully demands to know if he thinks she is about to die; when he turns on his camera, she demands that he turn it off, but he says Death is coming. A bright light suddenly shines into the darkroom. Fellig takes a photo just as Ritter enters and shoots. The bullet passes right through the camera and through Fellig into Scully, who collapses.While Ritter rushes to call an ambulance, Fellig asks Scully whether she saw Death and begs her to close her eyes. He covers her hand with his own. The color returns to Scully's hand as Fellig's turns gray. Looking up, he dies. At the hospital, Mulder watches through a window as Ritter apologizes to Scully, then tells the other agent that he's a lucky man. Going inside the room, Mulder reports to Scully that Fellig died of a simple gunshot wound, while the doctors are amazed at her own rapid recovery. He says, "Death only looks for you once you seek its opposite."
- Tithonus was a figure in Greek and Roman mythology, the human husband of Aurora, the personification of the dawn. Aurora convinced the other gods to grant her husband eternal life but she forgot to ensure that he had eternal youth. Eventually, Tithonus became so withered with age that he turned into a cricket.
- Some of the New York scenes were filmed on sets borrowed from the cop drama NYPD Blue", located on the other side of the Fox lot from the The X-Files sound stages.
- In the opening scene, when Fellig gets on the elevator the second time, the buttons that are lit up are for floors 10 and 13, another Chris Carter Easter egg. This one is particularly interesting due to the rarity of buildings with a 13th floor.
- In this episode we get a sort of explanation why death-focused psychic Clyde Bruckman in the season 3 episode "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" told Scully that she wouldn't die. It is deliberately left ambiguous whether Scully has now become immortal the way Fellig did.
- One of Fellig's alter-egos is L.H. Rice, named after writer Vince Gilligan's girlfriend, Lucy 'Holly' Hartwell Rice.
- L.H. Rice's birth date is April 4, which also holds true for the real L.H. Rice.
- Some might recognize guest star Richard Ruccolo from his starring role as Pete Dunville in the sitcom Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place
- At the beginning of the episode Mulder is speaking to a "Ms. Ehrmantraut". The name Ehrmantraut becomes significant in Vince Gilligan's critically aclaimed TV show, Breaking Bad, where Jonathan Banks portrays Mike Ehrmantraut.
Right after the young kid is killed for his tennis shoes, Fellig is confronted by the murderer and you can clearly hear the sound of a switchblade knife opening. When the knife is shown in Fellig's back and later in the evidence bag, however, it is a butterfly knife and not a switchblade.
Louis Brady had a 'Felon wanted by the FBI' file in 1929, but the FBI wasn't called the FBI until 1935; until then it was just the 'Bureau of Investigation'.
During the interview with Fellig, Agent Ritter gives the date as January 4. Since the episode started the day before, it seems harsh for the FBI to be forcing Mulder and Scully (and several other agents) to be doing background checks on the Sunday after New Years.
Television Reference: he's a regular Dick Clark. Dick Clark being a US TV presenter renowned for his youthful looks which earned him the nickname America's Oldest Teenager.
Mulder: I'm thinking of the Muslim superstition that taking someone's picture is stealing their soul. This is also a well-documented belief in societies which practice animist religions. In the Muslim world, an aversion to being photographed may have more to do with a general artistic prohibition on depicting the human form.
Names: Alfred Fellig's personas
Other than the "L.H. Rice" reference to Holly, all of Fellig's other pseudonyms were references to real-life photographers.
Alfred Fellig was named for Arthur 'WeeGee' Fellig. WeeGee was a New York City photographer in the 30's, 40's, and 50's who covered the police murder beat. He took graphic photos of the victims, which the newspapers usually printed along with their stories.
Alfred Fellig's first name came from Alfred Stieglitz, another famous photographer much admired by writer Vince Gilligan.
Henry Strand is named for Paul Strand. Paul Strand was a New York City photographer in the early 1900s. He went through a period of photographing his subjects without their knowledge in attempt to extract a "quality of being" from them. At the time this act was quite controversial.
Louis Brady may have been named for Mathew Brady, a photographer who covered the Civil War era when photography was still relatively new. He was an accomplished portrait photographer in his time. His subjects included Abraham Lincoln, Edgar Allen Poe, Frederick Douglas, and Susan B. Anthony. He was most famous as a war correspondent who collected images on the Civil War battlefields.
Tithonus is a character from Greek Mythology. He was a mortal man who fell in love with a goddess and begged Zeus to grant him immortality to be with her.
Zeus did as was asked but neglected to give him eternal youth, so Tithonus continued to shrivel and grow feeble as the years went by.
- Geoffrey Lewis as Alfred Fellig
- Richard Ruccolo as Agent Peyton Ritter
- James Pickens, Jr. as Assistant Director Alvin Kersh
- Ange Billman as Secretary
- Nicky Fane as Blue Collar Man
- Naomi Matsuda as Hooker
- Matt Gallini as Malcolm Wiggins
- Coby Ryan McLaughlin as First Young Agent
- Jolyon Reese as Second Young Agent
- Javier Grajeda as Desk Sergeant
- Barry Wiggins as NYPD Detective
- Don Fehmel as Ambulance EMT
- Dell Yount as Truck Driver