Well, the "dragging out" is a stylistic approach. It wouldn't be Mononoke really if it was fast-paced.
I'm not sure whether you're missing out. I did think the first two episodes were the weakest of the bunch, but if you didn't like the third... You could try to finish that arc, it's two more episodes, and the fourth has Wakamoto as a fish.
Also, Mononoke is technically 12+3 episodes. Mmmmmm.