I think most first seasons have a tipping point when things start to gel, and this episode was it for me
Looking forward to next one later...
Agreed. When I looked at the episode guide list on IMDB with the airdates, I was shocked to see just how out-of-order FOX aired the series originally. No doubt this contributed to the mixed response and lower ratings and ultimate cancellation.
Here is the IMDB episode listing. The number before represents the episode number from the DVD
2 The Train Job
6 Our Mrs. Reynolds
8 Out of Gas
10 War Stories
14 Objects in Space
1 Serenity (TV Pilot)
13 Heart of Gold
12 The Message
Looking at that list and thinking about how River's story unfolds, I can see where it would be a confusing mess for a first-time viewer.