When I read RoW the first time, the biggest thing that stuck out to me was that Sanderson's character work on Taravangian was masterful. Halfway through the book, Sanderson had set up a single choice for Taravangian, a choice that would define his character, a choice where he could have legitimately become the redeemed hero of the entire series but instead became its darkest villain. Taravangian, in contrast to Dalinar, has a fatal flaw, and it's more than just "end justifies the means".
It was so subtle though, and I haven't heard anyone else comment on it, so I wanted to pull it out here:
The choice I'm talking about is this one here, from Taravangian's final interlude:
It's the choice to tell Dalinar. At this point, Taravangian realized that he was wrong. Humanity isn't absolutely doomed. There is a way to defeat Odium, and he keeps thinking about telling Dalinar...but he never does, always finding a different reason not to. They could have finished it together, but in the end, he resolves to do it himself, just as he had before.
Let's observe the setup.
Throughout every Taravangian scene is pulsing this question: "What are Taravangian's true motives?"
From his 1st inerlude:
From his conversations with Dalinar:
You can see it here. This question. Was Taravangian a tragic hero? A man with the noblest of intentions who had done what he thought was best with the wrong information? Or has he been subtly lying even to himself, has he pushed this narrative so deeply into his subconscious because he wanted to be the hero, the one who saved everyone? Is it his self-sacrifice or self-ego that drives him?
His whole conversation with Dalinar danced around this, and at the end you get a glimpse at what could have been the alternate storyline for the Stormlight Archives. Taravangian, after learning his Diagram was mistaken, lets go of his ego and surrenders his role as the hero of the story to Dalinar. He tells Dalinar of Odium's weakness to Nightblood, and Dalinar defeats Odium once and for all. Taravangian's reputation is tarnished forever by his earlier betrayal, but humanity is saved. He lives on, hated by humanity, but he earns the respect of one man, ending the series as Dalinar's closest friend, working together for the good of humanity.
In the interludes, we see Taravangian himself wrestling with it. This is his conversation with Renarin:
I remember thinking at this point that we were in for a Taravangian redemption arc, and I was all here for it, but Sanderson bamboozled me yet again. I believe the light flickering in the darkness was Taravangian's wavering decision to confide in Dalinar, and the deep darkness of him rejecting that is our present reality of him having become Odium. His refusal to take Renarin's hand is symbolic of his refusal to accept help from Dalinar or anyone else. He's battling against admitting his own deep flaws.
And his most fatal flaw pokes its head out as he goes back and forth about going to Dalinar. Check out this sequence of moments where Taravangian thinks about talking to Dalinar.
The truth that his actions reveal is in the end he is too proud. It's his fatal flaw. He can't admit he was wrong. He can't share the spotlight. He can't play second fiddle. Everything is building up for him to turn around and make the right choice in his 11th hour, but he can't do it.
It's the inverse of Dalinar at the end of Oathbringer. Come face to face with the worst of himself, Dalinar took the blow head on. He acknowledged himself as a bad man, but instead of cowering away, he exposed himself to the world and took the next step forward. Taravangian, in one moment of brutal honesty, acknowledges to himself that his entire motive has been built out of justifications...but he keeps going.
And he hasn't stopped.