The resumption of Parliament on Tuesday signals the end of Christopher Luxon's honeymoon and the start of the unrelenting hard yakka that his role demands.
Only then can we assess whether he's the real deal.
National's fifth leader in a tad over four years spent the summer ticking off the usual soft media routines for new party bosses.
There was, for instance, the obligatory women's mag interview, leader-and-family photo ops, and requests to share his holiday book-reading intentions ("I've got seven lined up, actually," he boasted). Luxon's handlers also had him out on public walkabouts and fronting tame, National-friendly audiences in the provinces.
He appears to enjoy the giddy sensation of being in the spotlight and doling out quickfire opinions. This can sometimes get messy. Luxon called for a green light setting for Auckland, then fell silent on the idea as Omicron loomed. He demanded twice-weekly rapid antigen tests for all school children without knowing that would mean getting 1.6 million tests per week into schools. He claimed Australia has 60 approved suppliers of "RAT" kits, when the actual figure is 23.
He and his Covid spokesman, Chris Bishop, have been out of sync on their border reopening policy, though what National thinks has been rendered somewhat irrelevant by Thursday's border announcements.
The polls since Luxon's accession have been modestly positive for National. At least four since December show the party's support entering the 31-33 per cent range, having previously languished in the 20s.
In the Preferred PM stakes, Luxon's numbers are about half of those for Jacinda Ardern, which is a marked improvement on his predecessors' ratings.
But in the latest 1News-Kantar leaders' data, nearly 40 per cent of respondents couldn't say whether they approved or disapproved of Luxon. "Chris who?"
The recommencement of Parliament, then, becomes a critical waypoint. The elevated sphere in which Luxon now moves means that, day in and day out, he locks horns with the PM at parliamentary question time.
Ardern's Government has troubles aplenty, with the Omicron variant on the march and questions mounting about border reopening logistics, isolation rules, rapid antigen testing and the public health response.
But the challenge for Luxon is whether he has the political and interrogative skills to exploit these difficulties.
The early signs are unpromising, judging by his first-up effort in the House after the leadership dropped into his lap. In a spirit of pre-Christmas generosity the press gallery soft-pedalled on their judgment of Luxon, with most handing him an undeserved pass mark.
The reality was that his performance was mediocre, blamelessly so you might argue, as he'd just taken the leadership reins and was up against an adroit parliamentary performer in Ardern.
Luxon got his speaking notes mixed up, twice having to mutter "sorry" as he fumbled with them. He also had the galling experience of watching Act leader David Seymour — who had the floor ahead of him at question time — ask the pandemic-related questions he'd wanted to put to the PM.
Luxon appeared to lack the necessary agility to recover, which laid bare his slender parliamentary experience.
Things got so awkward that Luxon's colleague Chris Bishop dropped his head into his hands at one point.
Parliament's debating chamber is a brutal arena. In the hour allocated for oral questions, ministerial reputations can be greatly burnished or severely bruised. But so too can those of the Opposition interrogators. It can be a wearying, depressing experience when it doesn't go well — for either side.
It is the relative performances of the two key combatants — the PM and the leader of the Opposition — that get the closest scrutiny. While it is the PM and her Government being held to account, it is clear that question time is as much a test of the Opposition leader's mettle as it is of the PM's.
As Luxon will come to appreciate, Ardern goes to the parliamentary debating chamber meticulously prepared. She has a formidable appetite for detailed information and an unmatched ability to communicate it.
It was former Prime Minister Helen Clark who set the gold standard for House prep. As Opposition leader, she and longtime chief adviser Heather Simpson would seal themselves off for an hour's swot before parliamentary question time. Heaven forbid should anyone interrupt them.
In the Bolger-Shipley Government's dying days Clark was regularly beating up Jenny Shipley in the House, because she had done the work and had the agility to outfox her.
After Clark became prime minister, Ardern worked in her office as an adviser and would've observed the importance that Clark attached to priming herself for parliamentary combat.
Ardern clearly absorbed the lessons as her own performances in Parliament demonstrate.
While most people couldn't care less about parliamentary question time, the press gallery does. An Opposition hit, a fiery clash or a ministerial mis-step can quickly become the political story of the day on media outlets.
For a new leader, question time performance tends to quickly unmask (no pun intended) his or her true abilities and shortcomings.
Do it well and team morale will lift. Mess it up and your colleagues' shoulders can quickly slump. And all this happens under the media's steadfast gaze.
Ardern is now an experienced hand, but Luxon remains a novice.
How he handles his parliamentary responsibilities, while at the same time managing the pace and volume of all the other gnarly matters that will invariably come at him, will be a key measure of his advancement, or not, over coming months.
Mike Munro is a former chief of staff for Jacinda Ardern and was chief press secretary for Helen Clark.