Now I've seen nodal workflows like this many years back in video applications and thought them interesting, but they always struck me as something that would confuse the heck out of many people.
Not to mention the ridiculous amount of real estate they take up.
And right you are, jjj. Coming from a painting background I find working in layers very restricting and cumbersome from a creative POV established from painting's propensity for allowing noodling around with tools and techniques at hand (paint mixing, knives, washes, brush scuttling, etc) that deliver an immediate response and results.
The use of layers imposes a workflow that shoehorns the creative process from ever helping a creative come up with something unique and new due to the fact that a long drawn out systematic step by step layer approach forces the user to have the end result already in mind in order to keep it in mind also requiring someone else came up with the process to get the same results (i.e. Dragan effect, over cranked HDR, cross process, sepia etc.) A recipe for a lot of sameness in image creation.
Trying to fully grasp all the numerous tools including layers and what they do to an unfinished image in Photoshop is too much to keep in one's head in order to "Find a look" where one's left to copy a look someone else already established in a tutorial.
The simple example below illustrates an HDR look I was wanting to achieve with a High Pass filter layer in PS where I wanted to get this look in ACR in order to eliminate a layered tiff copy of the image. The key issue here is that I had to get this look FIRST in PS using layers to find the right tool combination in ACR IOW I had to have something to look at to copy from because I couldn't conceptualize what I was trying to get noodling around in ACR which is a much more pleasant experience over layer manipulation and "Blend If" triangle sliders or masks.
I actually prefer the ACR results on the left better than the High Pass layer effect on the right.