The two-part pilot would have turned me off; I don't remember when I sampled the show. The third episode, "The Witch", was okay. The season ends stronger than it began. "Nightmares" doesn't really work, but some good elements are present. "The Puppet Show" was good; still not great, but at least it was a nice turn on a classic horror plot.
The second-to-last episode, "Out of Mind, Out of Sight", is the one where Cordelia's character is developed. She never rises to the righteous "don't hate me because I'm beautiful" indignation ala Shelly on Northern Exposure, but the episode shows flashes of something more. I've started writing this on the last shot of the show, a page from a book in an FBI classroom. No spoilers, so only fans will no what I'm talking about. I just want to mention that the text of the page is the mangled lyrics to a bunch of songs on the second side of The Beatles' Abby Road. Hooray for Pause! I'm very happy I waited for the DVD.
The season finale, "Prophecy Girl", is the best of the lot. Written and directed by Whedon, it has camera angles and people crying and stuff. Still, nothing made a lot of sense. Despite the emotion, I didn't really feel for any of the characters. I kept wanting to yell at The Master for being such an idiot. He had all this time to plan his escape and doesn't know when to pounce. Probably just as well, I suppose, but I hate dumb villains more than I hate dumb heros.
Random observations: The theme music sucks. The direction is poor and the lighting horrible. The occasional good line doesn't make up for everything else. I must say: Everyone in Sunnydale is incredibly stupid.
DVD review: Only the two-episode pilot has commentary, and a few minutes of a Joss Whedon interview are scattered among the other disks. Still, it's nice to be able to turn on Closed Captioning to get all the dialog, and the aforementioned Pause comes in handy.
Season Two just moved farther down the queue, but isn't off.