If this was the Oscars, the prize for Best Picture would go to the National Party. It delivered an epic of huge proportions – a horror-thriller complete with intrigue, narks, innocents being used as pawns and betrayals.
The climax was undoubtedly the Beowulf and Grendel showdown between Simon Bridges and Judith Collins – and the plot twist was Christopher Luxon coming up to triumph after just a year in the job.
However, this is not the Oscars and so National does not get a gold figurine.
Instead the man who subbed in for them while they were caught up in their dramas does.
Politician of the Year: Act leader David Seymour, the little train that could*
[*possibly for a limited time]
At the start of 2021, Seymour appeared in a women's magazine talking about his search for love. He found it – from voters.
The love may be fickle and fizzle away if National leader Christopher Luxon's strong start lasts beyond his honeymoon.
But over the past year, Seymour has been the backbone of the Opposition at a time when a backbone was desperately needed.
It was during a pandemic, and there was a majority government which on occasion used its majority to push through Covid laws that impacted on people's freedoms, as well as reforms in areas such as health and local government.
It has done so in a sometimes cavalier and arrogant fashion, bypassing public input. That has sometimes meant the public has been left without its proper say – and so it was little wonder that 2021 also saw a lot of protests.
Seymour has been a clever, considered and consistent thorn in the Government's side - testing and challenging at every step.
He succeeded in capitalising on the flaws in the Covid-19 response when National could not. Helped by a very effective staff he outflanked them time and again, even if they were often saying the same things. His own caucus also remained disciplined (or at least out of sight).
National will be hoping the election of Luxon will see normal transmission resume, and themselves restored as the dominant voice of the Opposition.
However, Seymour has shown being the dominant party is a privilege in Opposition as well as in Government: it cannot be taken for granted, and it has to be earned.
National seems to blame Seymour for being too good at his job - and not staying in his lane. Asking Seymour to be worse to make yourself look better is not exactly a winning strategy.
Seymour wins partly by default over other contenders.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described her year as "tough" and it was. The Delta outbreak seemed to catch the Government on the hop and made a mockery of claims NZ did not need to rush its vaccinations programme because it was Covid free.
That slow start to that rollout meant we had to rely on hard lockdowns until it caught up.
There were protests - the Groundswell protest over Government reforms affecting the rural sector, the Grounded Kiwis protests over the issue of MIQ, and the big anti-lockdown, anti-vaccination protests.
Higher inflation is hitting – Robertson's protestations that it is a global phenomenon does not mean that it is not happening here, or that it will not hurt.
We are in relatively good nick compared to other countries. But it came at a high price especially for Auckland. A flurry of thanks at the end of the year will not ease that.
There is a difference between what people wanted to hear and what the safest steps were - Ardern perhaps deserves credit for staying the course on what she believed was needed, despite growing frustration and anger impacting on Labour's polling.
In the final tally, New Zealand will still look good – and for that Labour's polling may rally again.
But it's been a hell of a bumpy ride for the Government this year.
National's Christopher Luxon was a winner in terms of trajectory and speed - he rose from an unranked, first-term backbencher to the leader of the party. He has had an immediate impact in the first polls, but has not had time to do anything else beyond saying he was drawing a line, turning a page, and letting voters get to know him a little better.
Whether he will be "happening to the future" (as he put it in a tweet) will be a question for 2022 and 2023.
Runner Up (aka the Pity Prize): Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins.
Ardern's long pep talks and sales pitches were wearing thin and Hipkins' more direct style was a tonic. Hipkins would cut straight to an announcement, and treated even the most politically loaded questions from his rivals as constructive attempts to get information.
In the final debate of Parliament, Hipkins said he was tired from the worry and the decisions. He also noted that every time he had tried to have a day off he had been recalled to work. The next day, New Zealand recorded its first case of Omicron. Poor Hipkins deserves some award.
Best Minister: Dr Ayesha Verrall
The new MP went straight into Cabinet and straight to work. In little more than year, she passed measures to fortify flour with folate, to shift decisions on the fluoridation of water from local councils to the director-general of health, and to ban tobacco sales in the future to the children of today. On all three issues, others had tried before and failed. She has also been a key part of the Covid response.
Verrall takes a no-nonsense and no politicking approach to public health reforms. It may have helped that those opposed to such matters were otherwise occupied protesting Covid matters, but all three went through with little resistance.
Best Opposition MP: Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa Packer
Though some did get on with the job while the bombs were going off around them, National as a team has behaved too appallingly for any of its individual MPs to deserve this spot.
The award goes to Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Staunch, on message and unapologetic about it, Ngarewa-Packer was there to do a job. Confronted with lagging Māori vaccination rates, she took the grass-roots approach. She trained up as a vaccinator and put her needle where her mouth was instead of spending all her days at Parliament.
Ngarewa-Packer leaves the theatre of politics to co-leader Rawiri Waititi, whose first victory of the year was getting rid of the very long-standing Parliamentary tradition for men to wear a tie in the Debating Chamber.
Award for Back-Seat Driving: Sir John Key.
Bored and frustrated in lockdown, Key issued his own Covid-19 manifesto via the Sunday papers just two days before National was due to release theirs. He followed it up with appearances on almost every media outlet going – and succeeded in overshadowing National's and making the Government answer to his "policies".
He capped off the year by getting his dream team of Luxon and Nicola Willis installed as leader and deputy of National. Five years after he resigned, he's still got clout. But Key won't be the only one hoping he can vamoose to Maui soon.
Best Own Goal: Judith Collins
Collins' attempt to take down her challenger Simon Bridges saw herself taken out instead. When she tried to demote Bridges for a comment he made to fellow MP Jacqui Dean five years ago, she was rolled. She did, however, succeed in also spoiling Bridges' chances of getting the top job. She was put on an immediate "holiday" by Luxon who will no doubt be hoping she makes up her own mind to extend that holiday – forever.
Tigger Award for bouncing back: Simon Bridges.
Bridges thought he had the leadership in the bag only for Collins to take out one knee and Luxon to swoop in to claim the treasure. Bridges ended the year with the next best thing (the finance portfolio) and his self-deprecating sense of humour still intact. He tweeted about his efforts in the Great NZ Bake Off - a competition for which there were obvious parallels: "For some inexplicable reason I went into the comp quietly confident. That's not how it ended tho." Quite.
Award for Spit Roasting: Grant Robertson.
Robertson was the resistance and bravely defied the PM's "be kind" edict to deliver entertainment to the masses again and again through his roasts of the National Party's leaders and ex-leaders, and the struggles to better Seymour.