I am casually watching the first season of the 1920s Australian detective show Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries
, and I was struck by one moment of subtle narrative economy. In the second episode, Phryne Fisher engages a butler for her new household without meeting him; two of her colleagues (a pair of socialist cab-drivers) encounter him before Phryne does and gleefully elbow each other about the shock that he will experience when he finally meets the unconventional Phryne. Instead, the butler competently handles Phryne's affairs without comment and, at the end of the episode, helps defend Phryne from an attacker.
He is not a big part of the episode, but I am struck by the necessity
of that early elbowing scene from the cab-drivers. If the butler just accepted Phyrnne's "eccentricities" without comment, it would read as implausible and anachronistic; if he objected, he would join the boring, disapproving background chorus of Society At Large within the series. But by having other characters expect repugnance from him -- and by having him upend those expectations -- he embodies a subtle, satisfying dramatic irony while also helping stabilize the viewer's suspension of disbelief in reconciling the old-fashioned setting with the modern-day practices of the protagonist. It's merely a quick flourish within the episode as a whole, but it demonstrates an attention to detail that does not always appear in television serials. ( The Cloud Roads; Good Night, Mr. Holmes; The Serpent Sea; and The Blade Itself )