It takes nearly nine and a half hours to watch all three theatrical editions of the Lord of the Rings films. So, you’d be forgiven for failing to capture the similarities between two shots that take place at opposite ends of the trilogy.

As “The Fellowship of the Ring” draws to a close, Frodo (Elijah Wood), fearing that the Ring will corrupt anyone who comes close to him, decides to travel to Mordor alone. Sam (Sean Astin), having none of this, chases Frodo into the river, where he nearly drowns. Fortunately, Frodo plunges his hand into the water and squeezes Sam’s wrist. Sam, in turn, grabs Frodo.

Frodo saves Sam at the start of their journey and at the end, Sam returns the favor. At the end of “The King’s Return,” Sam grabs Frodo, pulling him from the fiery chasm of Mount Doom. The plan perfectly echoes Frodo’s previous gesture: two hands tied, extended vertically, firmly gripped in an unbreakable bond. Side by side, these shots act like a powerful and symmetrical bookend to the couple’s adventure. Thanks to the water and fire of Middle-earth, their tidy clothes were removed and their unblemished skin became swollen and bloody. Much has changed, but until the end, their love and loyalty for each other remains intact and unbroken.

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