100% agreed. Marielda has for a while been my go to first season recommendation for exactly those reasons, on top of being short enough to be a reasonable ask for more people.
On falling of Counterweight – this happened to me a number of times too. It was the last season I finished (just recently, in prep for season 6), and while I ultimately loved it once I was fully in it, I’m even more convinced than I’ve ever been that it really shouldn’t be the go to recommended starting point it so often is. For a few reasons, but especially that, as funny as the first few arcs are, the confusion about MechNoir rules and debating over good adjectives really create a lot of early roadblocks.
In my head, Twilight Mirage is the better sci fi starting season – on top of starting with pbta right away, they had as a show really figured a lot more out (2 extra season’s worth of experience) and better audio quality. I’m also biased though, since it’s also just my favorite season. I’m gonna be elistening to that season in prep too starting today, so maybe it’ll be a similarly rough start to C/W and I’ll just have been wrong, either way I’ve been really looking to it.