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I think Shrek is dead in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

Why the story actually hits a lot harder if the beloved ogre kicked the bucket

Shrek, a green ogre, gives Puss in Boots, an orange anthropomorphic cat wearing a hat, a hug Image: DreamWorks Animation
Petrana Radulovic is an entertainment reporter specializing in animation, fandom culture, theme parks, Disney, and young adult fantasy franchises.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is not just a sequel to a Shrek spinoff — it’s also a gorgeously animated movie with some beautiful action sequences, vivid characters, and a touching story about mortality.

But yes, it is also a Shrek spinoff, which leads to the natural question: Is Shrek in this movie? The answer is surprisingly complicated for something so simple.

OK, so, is Shrek in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish?

Shrek in a mud bath in Shrek Forever After Image: DreamWorks Animation

Unlike the previous Puss in Boots movie, which served as a prequel to Puss as we meet him in Shrek 2, The Last Wish takes place after all of Puss’ Shrek-related escapades, when he’s on the last of his nine lives.

Shrek himself does not make a canon appearance, but when Puss reminisces on his past adventures, both Shrek and Donkey pop up in a memory. It is a scene where the three of them jauntily walk across a fallen log bridge, which as far as we know was not actually shown on screen in a mainline Shrek movie. Was it a missing moment, or did this happen after Shrek Forever After?

In addition to Shrek and Donkey, a handful of other Shrek characters make brief appearances in The Last Wish: Pinocchio is seen in one of the big bad villain’s flashbacks, doing a merry little jig and squealing that he is a real boy. Gingy the Gingerbread Man was directly involved in Puss’ fourth death, where the two of them watched an oven right before it exploded.

When does Puss in Boots: The Last Wish take place in relation to Shrek?

Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), Perro (Harvey Guillén) and Puss stand in a garden of watercolor-like flowers and trees Image: DreamWorks Animation

Here’s where things get a little more fun. We know that Puss must’ve met Shrek and the gang sometime between his third and fourth lives — which means that he lived four more lives since then. Now granted, Puss has lived a carefree life leading to the events of The Last Wish, which means the gaps between lives could’ve been just a couple of months. But they also could’ve spanned quite some time (on the longer end, cats live about 18 years, but this is a fantasy world with talking cats, so we can’t quite put a number on it).

But context in The Last Wish suggests it’s been some time since Puss has seen Shrek and the others. He’s basically in a different country and off doing his own thing. And it’s been long enough that Puss doesn’t feel like he can comfortably hit up Shrek or Donkey when a doctor suggests he spend his last life chilling. A lot of the movie focuses on Puss getting over his own inflated ego and learning to rely on others, but it does undermine his previously established friendship with Shrek and the others. Surely they had the sort of bond that transcends a few awkward years.

But what if it’s been more than a few awkward years? What if it’s actually been such a long period of time that… Shrek isn’t alive anymore?

Wait, what? But doesn’t Puss go to Far Far Away in the last scene?

Yes, the ending of The Last Wish finds Puss, Kitty, and Perrito stealing a ship and sailing to Far Far Away, but let’s remember a few key things: One, Shrek renounced the Far Far Away throne to live in his swamp back in the third movie, leaving the crown to Fiona’s cousin Arthur. And two, a lot of other characters live in Far Far Away — notably characters who probably can’t die of old age, like Pinocchio (made of wood), Gingy (made of cookie), and the Magic Mirror (made of mirror). Also, Fiona and Shrek and Donkey and Dragon all had kids, which means that Puss could very likely be visiting the second (or third!) generation.

I don’t believe you.

Wolf talks to Puss at the bar while Puss drinks milk Image: DreamWorks Animation

I also don’t fully believe me. After all, it’s been long rumored that some sort of Shrek reboot or sequel is coming up. And Universal and DreamWorks probably want to make as much Shrek money as possible, so it is vastly unlikely that Shrek is actually dead. Also, he’s an ogre. Surely they live pretty dang long.

But the message of mortality and Puss’ fear of death hits all the harder when we consider that the hero’s outlived some of his closest friends and has seen the passage of time. It could even be that he took off and left them when he realized they were nearing the ends of their lives, unable to face that fact. Maybe he regrets this! Maybe he has compartmentalized! Maybe this is another reason he wants to work alone and be alone — getting close to others when you have a semi-immortal lifespan only builds up to heartache. No wonder this cat has commitment issues!

Wait, speaking of commitment issues — what about Puss’ wedding? Were Shrek and Donkey and the rest of them there?

I certainly hope so. Maybe Puss running away from that wedding wasn’t just running from a life with Kitty, but the fact he couldn’t face his friends one last time. Let that sink in. :)

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is available on demand now.

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