The Naruto fandom collectively gasped at the end of the Shippuden anime during Sasuke and Naruto's epic confrontation, and shed tears at their eventual reconciliation. But it is the depth of their bond that makes Sasuke’s antagonistic attitude throughout the series so confusing. It is baffling that Sasuke, who admits to having looked up to the other since their childhood, wanted to kill him so desperately.
Sasuke didn’t actually want to kill Naruto, even if everything he did proved the opposite. To understand Sasuke’s actions, we must understand Sasuke’s character and his relationships.
Understanding Sasuke Uchiha and his relationship with Naruto Uzumaki
We first start seeing the toxic side of Sasuke’s competitiveness after the Chunin exam, specifically after Itachi’s visit during the search for Tsunade. Itachi reinforced in Sasuke that power was absolute, and fueled his desire for vengeance against his older brother on behalf of his massacred clan. Seeing his rival steadily becoming stronger made Sasuke desperate, which was exactly the opportunity Orochimaru needed to lure Sasuke.
During their fight during the Sasuke Retrieval arc, Sasuke’s main intent was to make Naruto give up trying to drag Sasuke back to Konoha. Sasuke, who was deeply scarred by his brother’s actions and words, believed that to awaken his Mangekyo Sharingan, he needed to sacrifice his most precious bond, which happened to be his bond with Naruto. He was, in the end, unable to do so, choosing to train under Orochimaru to strengthen the abilities of the Curse Mark.
The first time the two friends confronted each other again after the three-year timeskip, Sasuke appeared cold and apathetic, threatening to kill anyone who stood in his way. But he did not show any particular antagonism towards his childhood friend, even telling him to go back home and focus on becoming Hokage. Sasuke was entirely driven by his thirst for revenge, training under Orochimaru to hone his skills and then killing him to avoid becoming a vessel.
It was only after he witnessed Itachi’s death and awakened the Mangekyo Sharingan that his more violent streak was revealed. After learning the truth that Itachi had kept hidden for so many years, Sasuke considered the entire Konoha village and anyone living there as an enemy. However, Pain had already destroyed Konoha, leaving Sasuke nowhere to direct his anger. During the Five Kage Summit arc, Sasuke appeared at his most feral, fixated enough on avenging his brother and the Uchiha pride to attack Sakura and Kakashi without hesitation.
This was where Naruto and Sasuke came to blows again with Rasengan and Chidori, and fans were given a glimpse into Naruto's mindscape, and his reasons for clinging on to his bond with Sasuke. Sasuke mocked him, saying someone with no family could not understand his motivations. However, that was exactly why Naruto was obsessed with saving Sasuke from “the chaos of revenge”, with Sasuke being the first bond he ever made.
Their power dynamic seesaw-ed throughout the series, finally becoming even during their fight against Madara, after Hagoromo bestowed them with the Sage of Six paths and the Rinnegan. After defeating Kaguya, fans witnessed the final confrontation between the two friends, which was basically a battle of wills between the two.
Sasuke was convinced he was walking a path of no-return, so he intended to make the ultimate sacrifice to bring back peace. It would have meant killing three birds with one stone for Sasuke: killing the hero of the Fourth Ninja War would make him and him alone the target of the entire shinobi world’s hatred, and with the Tailed Beasts and Kaguya destroyed, he could monitor and maintain peace as a shadow Hokage. On a more personal note, killing his best friend would also sever the last bond he had left.
In a way, Sasuke was following Itachi’s footsteps, just on a much larger scale. Naruto, of course, refused to let Sasuke go through with it, arguing that true peace would never be achieved that way.
Most of Sasuke’s actions throughout the series were driven either by revenge, guilt or remorse. While completely understandable, these decisions were often more emotional than rational, and thus unnecessarily painful both for Sasuke and those that cared about him. It is safe to say his inferiority complex and martyr complex led him to make several questionable decisions throughout the series, including wanting to kill his best friend.