I figured out what was bothering me about Cataclysm tree design.
If you look at the first row of talents, Blizzard usually has 2x 3pt talents and a 2pt talent. That means that if you want to only spend 5 points in the first row to get to the second, you get the 2pt and one of the 3pts.
However, in a lot of cases, the 2pt talent is "more optional" than the 3pt talents. If you look at the current paladin trees, Ret has Eye for an Eye at 2pts, and Prot has Imp Hammer of Justice. Both of those are more PvP talents, and somewhat less attractive to other specs.
Because of this, you tend to be pushed towards taking both 3pts in the first row, leaving you with only 4 points for the second row. So you can take a 3 or 2pt talent, and then you're left with 1 or 2 points and very few options to cap out. No matter what, if you are subspeccing, you cannot take 2 3pt talents in the second row.
I think talent trees would flow a little better if the 2pt talent was "less optional" than the 3pt talents. That way, you'd grab the 2pt and choose which 3pt you liked, making the next tier easier to finish. And you'd less likely to have 1 point left dangling in a standard 31/10 build.
For example, in Retribution, I think that tree would flow better if Crusade was 2pts and Eye for an Eye was 3pts. Then PvP/Prot would take Eye for an Eye and Crusade, and Holy and Ret would take Rule of Law and Crusade, and that would give everyone 5 points for the second row of Ret or for the first row in Prot.