You know, I believe I missed 'First Flight' the first time around. None of the snippets I've seen so far (There's an ad for S2 on the BluRay) seem familiar.
The ad also goes out of its way to mention 'Carbon Creek', which was why I was curious to see if that ep -like 'Fallen Hero'- broke the TNG/Berman Trek mold for how Vulcans behave (more than ENT already tries to, that is). I think I do remember being underwhelmed by it though, so between your recollection and mine I'll lower expectations accordingly. I expect I'll see it soon enough anyway, as I'm going through the whole series sequentially (BluRay providing the excuse to do so).
I actually am curious now about T'Pol's drug addiction and other S3 serialized developments, if only because this guy
seems to favor it the highest of ENT's seasons. I find my opinions on ST 'generally' track with his, though with some notable exceptions (He ranks 'Dear Doctor' as his S1 favorite, as I believe you do, and of course everyone but me seems to rank 'Shuttlepod One' as being way up there too). At any rate, S3 is the last sizable chunk of ENT left unexplored for me at this point. I don't recall when I tuned out, but I believe it was early on in that season.
I think fans probably assumed prior to ENT that the Vulcans wouldn't have changed at all over just 100 years. This assumption would be supported by Vulcan culture's seemingly rigid emphasis on ritual and tradition (as you mentioned), and by the fact that they've been in space a very long time (long enough to forget their kinship with the Romulans, at least). They've always been portrayed as a very old culture rather than an evolving one. Deciding that they should appear younger or more stubborn because humans/Starfleet is younger, and that's going to be the theme of our series, is like deciding to build the Enterprise on Earth: in both cases you're exercising your creative license to favor a dramatic truth over a more probable one.
Where 'The Forge' three-parter disconnected for me, was where the resolution seemed to back-peddle with this decision. It's like they were saying no, it's just the conservative ruling minority that's made up of Vulcans who still need to enlighten themselves; the oppressed majority of individuals is already there waiting for Kirk's and Spock's 23rd Century to discover them. I guess the question is, as a writer do you come in and fix something the fans responded negatively to, or do you stay the course and figure you're committed to what you've started? I think finally someone actually says to Archer "You'll have a much better relationship with us from now on" and that's when I thought things were ending too neatly. I also thought the Vulcan high command went way too far when they admitted they were attacking both Andor and the underground Vulcan movement under intentionally false pretenses. When you go that far you not only lose motivation, but you leave only one possible ending which was the one we got.
I did like the Katra stuff though. It was nice to finally get an idea what Kirk and his friends hoped to achieve in recovering Spock if they couldn't know his body had been restored.