Galadriel spends several minutes of Episode 6 interrogating Adar after she and Halbrand capture the Orc leader in the woods. After a surprisingly violent threat to bring Adar’s surviving Orcs into the sunlight if he won’t talk, Adar finally spills the beans, starting with the surprising line, “After Morgoth’s defeat, the one you call Sauron devoted himself to healing Middle-earth, bringing these ruined lands together in perfect order.”
The fallen Elf goes on to describe a Dark Lord who was clearly willing to go to any length to accomplish his goals. He talks about Sauron turning to the unseen world for answers and leading a host of his followers north, where things got really dark when he spilled a lot of blood (including many of Adar’s own servants) in the pursuit of this morbid, twisted form of supernatural healing. The experience is so awful, that Adar claims he eventually killed Sauron — something that everyone knows is impossible, since, you know, Sauron’s still kicking around during “The Lord of the Rings,” thousands of years later.
Of course, Adar may have destroyed his corporeal form without realizing that Sauron (who is a spirit by nature) could just take another physical form later on, or something along those lines. But the real question here isn’t whether Sauron is temporarily disembodied or not. For goodness’ sake, he’s not even physically in the story yet. The inquiry worth asking is whether the villain really was a not-so-Dark Lord at one point in the story — and the answer is a surprising “yes.”